In Her Shell
Thursday, August 24, 2006
  Are You There God? It's Me, Wonderturtle

This book sucked. Sucked! It absolutely symbolized my complete failure to be a normal girl.

I wasn't even aware of this book until after everyone in my grade had already read it. This was unsurprising, as my bandwagon book-reading habits had followed a similar pattern with Sweet Valley High, Sweet Valley Twins, and Anne of Green Gables. I had to put my foot down when it came to The Babysitter's Club, but that is probably because only a small sub-section of the popular girls actually read those.

So Judy Blume. Turns out that here was this book that was supposed to unlock the mysteries of what pre-teen girls were really thinking. "Finally," I thought, "someone to clue me in!" I always felt woefully inadequate in my quest for average girldom.

I may be alone in this, and I feel almost as nervous about saying it as I have about using this forum to publicly diss Debbie Gibson and Oreos in the past. But I really, really did not like this book.

I thought this Margaret chick seemed whiny and pathetic, and she was far too obsessed with boys who were mean, and the girls who were supposed to be her friends were mean, too. But this was a book about the average pre-teen girl. If I didn't have Margaret's fears and concerns, what did that say about me?

Looking back now, I realize that instead of reassuring me that my fears and concerns were OK, it only made me suspect that I had missed something, and was terribly behind in what I was supposed to be afraid of and concerned about.

Training bras and menstruation, apparently, were supposed to be the penultimate teen girl experiences, and I had neither. She prayed a lot in this weird, chitchatty way. The title, perhaps meant to be endearing, gave a creepy feeling that I now recognize as existential.

I think this book was absolutely not written for pre-teen girls. It was meant to be, but it's not. When I read it then I felt like it was an adult's imagining of my experience, which is weird since Judy had actually been a pre-teen girl herself. But maybe the actuality of being thirteen is too difficult to define on a page.

I have yet to read a book that truly, successfully re-creates the paradoxical darkness-and-innocence of those years. And even if I thought I found one now, it would only be what I recognize through the glass of all the time since.
 
Comments:
the only thing i remember about that book is she had to wear pads that came with a belt. i could not for the life of me imagine how that worked. still can't.
 
I liked that book. But at that age my reading material kind of edged towards whatever my sisters liked and weird stuff that I shouldn't have been into (reading Ray Bradbury during 3rd grade silent reading doesn't make you more popular). I did however like the Anastasia books by Lois Lowry as a better look at *my* childhood thoughts. She was a little more cerebral and weird...like I was.
 
I know that I read it, but I don't have much recollection. I remember "Forever" much better because there was sex in it.
 
Never read it, but I love your take on it! And "through the glass of all the time since" is just beautiful.
 
You didn't share Margaret's fears, and what does that say about you? Probably that you are, in the words of Mindy June, "cooler, hipper and just plain better" than Margaret.

I don't remember the specifics of the book, but Judy Blume is pretty cool nonetheless. I think you are right in saying it may not have been written for pre-teens. I met Judy when she spoke at a public library once. She told us that she believes that every person has an outside age and an inside age. She believes her inside age to be about 11. So basically she wrote that book as an adult-11-year-old, which would certainly give it a warped perspective.

As for a book that "truly, successfully re-creates the paradoxical darkness-and-innocence of those years," what about our beloved Harriet?

I remember one of the sequels to HTS where her friend announces that she's "menstruating" and Harriet gets all pissy about it.
 
I loved Harriet! Thank you for the reminder. Many a grade school book report of mine involved her.
 
HB: My mom explained it to me. Sometime I will draw you a picture. She also gave me her pads to use, which were big enough to row away in.

JAG: I forgot about Anastasia, who RULED. Remember when she suspected that she was THE Anastasia, missing Russian princess? (and on the subject of Harriet, check out my profile icon, dude...)

Lu: I also read "Forever," which horrified me. But there was another one, about a nerdy girl who got a hot boyfriend, then dumped him because he was a loser. I liked that one, but I forget the title.

Megan: Thanks man! You are always so supportive. :)

CP: Thank you, and I should probably re-read some of the later Harriet books. In the first one I feel like she is still squarely in the age of innocence.
I wonder what age(s) JB was when she wrote "Summer Sisters"?
 
Sweetness is 13 next year. Maybe I should write a book. It's looking REAL clear to me right now.
 
Do it, do it!
 
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