11 Facts About Judy Blume’s 'Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret'
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, may technically be middle-aged now—the pre-teen tale by Judy Blume turned 50 in 2020—but the book’s lessons are for the ages. Whether you read it in the 1970s or the 2000s, Margaret Simon’s sixth-grade trials and tribulations no doubt rang true. Here are 11 page-turning facts about Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret that all Blume fans should know.
1. Judy Blume considers Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret her first “real” book.
Although Blume had two books on bookshelves already—The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo and Iggie’s House—Blume says Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was the book that felt the most intimate and “real.”
“It was my third published book, but the first real book, the book where I just let go. I didn’t know what I was doing. I just did it—and this is what came out,” Blume said in a 2020 interview with CBC.
2. The characters in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret are a combination of Blume and her friends at 12 years old.
Out of all of her characters, Blume said that Margaret is one of the most autobiographical, along with Sally J. Friedman and Sheila Tubman.
3. Blume wrote Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret in six weeks.
“The first draft came out quickly and spontaneously, in about six weeks,” Blume wrote on her blog in 2020. “These days I can’t write a six-page essay in six weeks. But then it was all so new, so exciting, so close to the surface. Margaret is the book that changed my life.”
4. She didn’t set out to write a controversial book.
The honesty with which Blume discusses normal pre-teen topics like puberty and sexual curiosity is what has made Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret so beloved—and also so controversial. But it was never Blume’s intent to write a scandalous book. “I just wanted to be real. I wanted to be honest,” the author said in 2020. “I was small and not developed, and everything came later to me. So this was what I wanted desperately—and so does Margaret. To me there was nothing wrong with thinking about getting your period and wanting your breasts to grow. It wasn’t controversial in my mind. It was just true.”
5. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret has been a mainstay on the list of most frequently challenged books.
Despite not intending to court controversy, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret has earned a practically permanent spot on the American Library Association (ALA) list of the 100 most frequently challenged book for decades. In the 1990s, the book was number 60; on the ALA’s list for 2000-2009, it ranked at 99. (Good news: It appears to have fallen off the list for 2010-2019.)
6. Blume’s own children’s school library refused to carry Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
When the book was first published, Blume donated three signed copies to her kids’ elementary school. “Later, I found out the books never made it to the shelf,” Blume wrote on her blog. “The male principal decided that the book was inappropriate because of the discussion of menstruation, never mind how many fifth and sixth graders already had their periods. My first experience with having a book banned.”
7. The 2014 edition of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was controversial for a different reason.
Unlike previous iterations of the book, which were controversial because of the frank content, the 2014 version of the book raised eyebrows due to the cover design. The stripped-down cover featured nothing but three text message bubbles: “Are you there, God” and “It’s me, Margaret.” followed by the ever-mysterious “...” ellipsis response, ostensibly representing God’s wordless presence. Although many fans deemed it incredibly clever, others were less than impressed with the tech-savvy update. There are still no cell phones in the book—it still takes place in the ‘70s—but Blume has said that if she wrote the book today, Margaret would be a texter. (She also gave the new cover her blessing.)
8. Yes, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret has been updated with more modern references.
But not many. You won’t find TikTok, iPads or cellphones in the most recent version of Margaret, but editors have conceded to a few updates over the years—including upgrading Margaret and her friends to pads instead of the sanitary napkins with belts from the earlier editions.
9. Nancy Wheeler from Stranger Things is not named after Judy Blume’s Nancy Wheeler.
Fans of both the Netflix series and Blume’s book have suggested that the Duffer Brothers named their teenage heroine as a nod to Margaret’s best friend by the same name. They have since confirmed that the shared name is purely coincidental.
10. Blume never wanted Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret made into a movie ...
For decades, Blume didn’t think anyone would be able to do Margaret justice on the big screen. “For years, I never wanted to see Margaret adapted,” Blume told the Chicago Tribune. “Even when I went out to L.A., I thought, ‘Nobody can do Margaret.’ And by the end of the week, I was like, ‘Wait a minute. I would love to see Margaret done well.’ Why not? What am I waiting for? I’m 80 years old. If I want to see it, I better hurry up.”
11. ... but a movie version of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret will hit theaters in April 2023—and Blume is a producer.
If you’re also worried that the upcoming movie isn’t going to quite represent the book accurately, the fact that Blume is serving as a producer should help put your mind at ease. And anyway, she’s not worried about it. “It will be fine,” she told Entertainment Weekly, “because the book is the book—and it always will be the book.”
The movie, which will hit theaters April 28, 2023, features Abby Ryder Forston as Margaret, Benny Safdie and Rachel McAdams as parents Herb and Barbara, and Kathy Bates as grandma Sylvia. The movie was written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, who had previously helmed 2016’s The Edge of Seventeen. When Craig approached Blume about adapting her novel for the big screen in 2018, “she had just seen my first film, The Edge of Seventeen, and she expressed that that made her feel confident that I was going to embrace all the flaws and nuances,” Craig recalled to Entertainment Weekly. “That gave her confidence that the film would have the same honesty that she is so known for.”
A version of this story ran in 2021; it has been updated for 2023.