Wednesday 7 June 2023

Are You There God? It's Me, Katie

Reading this iconic book by Judy Blume felt like a right of passage. My mum had bought it for my older sister originally and by the time I was 11 or 12, it was my turn to read it. At first it felt like a forbidden ‘grown up’ book but I soon realised it was for any pre-teen, or teenager to consume. Back in those days, I liked to read often and faster than I do now. True to my own personality, once I’d read one Judy Blume book, I had to read more. Books were also a lot cheaper in the late 90s/early 00s which meant I could pick up lots of books at a time. But unfortunately, I can’t remember much about any of the Judy Blume books I read, except for the seminal, Are You There God? It’s me Margaret

I thought it was odd that this book, which everyone seemed to know, whether they read it or not, had never been adapted into a film or TV series. But here we are 20 years after I read the book, a film has finally been made and its feels true to the book, as far as I can remember anyway. Originally the book met with controversy because the frank discussions about menstruation and the fact that Margaret is allowed to choose her own religion, because of course that’s controversial for the 70s. Only now are these kinds of discussions becoming more frequent and normalised. Though I never understood by Margaret and her friends desperately wanted their periods. The hell storm and pain that is causes many women; you would have thought you’d want that occurrence delayed as much as possible. 

Played by Abbey Ryder Fortson in the film, Margaret is as insecure and concerned about growing up as much as possible to fit in with her new friends. She has the contained, sometimes humorous conversations with God, wanting advice and wondering what religion she should choose. Her curious nature and her parents openness, allows her to explore the possibilities. I had forgotten how much religions plays a part in the story and how this choice Margaret feels she has to make weighs on her throughout the film (and book). The film differs from the book in concentrating on Margaret’s parents and her bellowed grandmother, which I was concerned would feel forced as these actors are the ‘famous’. But the scenes and storylines with the adult characters actually made the story more grounded and felt less like a pre-teen coming of age drama. The film felt more about family with Margaret at the centre. 
Judy Blume herself was one of the producers on the film, which probably meant, this was the right time to adapt this story. The author even said ‘the film is better than the book!’. For anyone who hasn’t read the book, its an enjoyable story with a talented new lead. For those who grew up with the book, it’ll take you back to when you first read it.