It has been a long time since I was eleven like the main character in this book, Margaret. Yet it has been more recent that my children have been eleven. My youngest girl still is. I couldn't help thinking of her while I read this book. This is why I could not give the book more than three stars.
In many ways Margaret is an extremely stable and lucky preteen girl. She has two parents who love her and support her. They have a great marriage. She has a grandmother who goes out of her way to be with her, and as Margaret gets older even distances herself without it being awkward.
Yet, there is a lot of turmoil in Margaret's life as well. The book opens with Margaret moving from New York City to the suburbs of New Jersey. That is an extremely dramatic change to have happen the last year of elementary school. In addition she moves from a private school to a public school, which is another dramatic change. Thankfully for Margaret she meets her new best friend within pages of starting the book and has a whole peer group before she starts school. I mean really?
This is a book for young children. That does not mean that it cannot have emotional depth and meaningful characters. There are plenty of young adult authors that provide both while still writing to their target audience. This book seems to limit the emotional depth that an eleven year old can and does experience. Living with an eleven year old daughter I do not find that anywhere near the case.
This brings me to my last point. This book is a coming of age story. One big aspect of the story is about Margaret finding a religion to identify with. This motivation is largely driven by her sixth grade teacher. He asks Margaret why she does not like religious celebrations and then never addresses it again, even though they were the chorus in the school play. For her school project she writes him a letter and runs off. He just left it at that? There was no follow though at all? Even the self discovery seemed vacant and lacking real depth. Her grand epiphany was that her parents should have just picked for her and she started to talk to God again when she got her period. I found it a bit hollow.
I know that Are You There God? It's Me Margaret. is suppose to be a classic in children's literature. I may not have a popular opinion, but I was not all that thrilled with the novel. My daughter will not pick the book up, she would not be able to relate to the main character at all. She is busy dealing with middle school and bullying. She dreads hitting puberty even though she knows it is on the way. When I told her about it she politely declined to read it.
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