Friday, June 5, 2009

Revisiting the classics.

While strolling through the aisles at my local Barnes & Noble bookstore yesterday, a familiar old title caught my eye.

Are You There God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume.

Oh. My. God. Talk about transporting me right back smack dab to 1988.

I stopped dead in my tracks and perused the much-loved and familiar titles of one of my all-time favorite YA authors.

Forever

Just As Long As We're Together

Deenie

Then Again, Maybe I Won't


To me, these books will forever be classics. They defined my adolescence, for crying out loud! They were some of the only - if not THE only - books that really got down to the nitty-gritty about the issues that girls - and boys - have to deal with as their bodies and minds start to change from children into young adults.

I don't know how other girls in my generation felt at that age, but my mom was not one to sit with me and have big heart-to-hearts about the changes I was going through and the things I was feeling, so I either had to turn to my older Super Sister (can you say "mortifying?") or turn to books. (Well, and my friends - but they were equally as ill-prepared to answer those questions as I was!) So THANK GOD for Judy Blume!

Anyhoo, back to the bookstore. As I stood there browsing the familiar titles, I wavered between kicking myself for ever selling my original paperback editions in a rummage sale long ago followed immediately by an intense longing to buy up every one of my old favorites. And then, after I did a little of the former, I did a little of the latter.

I bought two of my old favorites, and I started re-reading Just As Long As We're Together yesterday afternoon, for the first time in nearly 20 years. How odd a feeling it is to reread that book as an adult, with all sorts of wisdom (hey, even I use that word loosely!) under my belt that I simply didn't possess back then.

Reading about Stephanie's crush on Jeremy Dragon made me feel 12 years old again, with a crush on a cute boy and accompanied by a whole host of hormone-driven longings and confused emotions. The sheer innocence and drama of it put a smile on my face, because I can still remember what that felt like as though I was just in Stephanie's shoes yesterday. Maybe I'm also feeling more connected to and reflective about that time in my life because it's the stage of life that Super Girl is in as I speak. Seeing her deal with all the issues that come part and parcel with adolescence reminds me constantly of what my life was like back then, only it's SO much easier to revisit it now in memory because of the experience and perspective I've gained since I lived it.

Judy Blume's books covered all the big adolescent topics: changing bodies and poor body image and self-esteem, young love, lust, the difficulties of female relationships, changing family dynamics, depression. The books could've been leather-bound and grouped together as an "Encyclopedia for Teenaged Girls," as far as I'm concerned.

As I'm reading Just As Long As We're Together, I'm of course acutely aware that the setting (the mid-'80s) is rather different from the world that today's adolescents are growing up in, and that makes me a little bit sad because I think that Super Girl probably won't get into these books in the same way that my friends and I did, if she'd read them at all.

I hope she will though. Regardless of the point in time that the books take place, the messages are the same - all of your peers are going through the same changes, feelings and issues, whether they'll admit it or not, and you just have to make the best of them and keep moving forward. I know it always made me feel better reading the Judy Blume books to get a sense that SOMEONE understood what it was like to be in my shoes.

Anyway, I'm going to make it my mission to get my hands on and re-read all of my old Judy Blume favorites this summer. I can think of no better or more apropos time to undertake that little challenge, since summertime always makes me think back on when I was in junior and senior high school and since Super Girl is in the midst of that time in her own life.

Just so you know, I'm positive - I mean, absolutely TOTALLY positive - that I'll be writing more posts about the Judy Blume classics over the next few months, and I really and truly hope that you, my lovely readers, will join in my adolescent reminiscing through comments on those posts. Just think of how much fun that'll be!!

For starters, I hope you'll comment on this post to share what YOUR favorite Judy Blume book (or books) was. I'll reveal my favorite later on... ;)

Here's to summer, to adolescence, and to Judy Blume!!

Peace out,
SW

5 comments:

  1. I've only ever read Are You There God, It's Me Margaret? I am living proof that the "I must, I must, I must increase my bust" routine does not work. ;)

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  2. You and me both, Sarah. :) Wishful thinking, I suppose! ;) God, name an adolescent girl who grew up in the '70s who didn't recite that mantra over and over... and over. ;)

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  3. I love Judy Blume too. I devoured her books. My mom took me to a bookstore in Madison (Moseley's, I think it was called) to get her autograph when I was in 4th or 5th grade. The only books I hadn't read were Forever, Smart Women, and Wifey, and even though I wanted them, my mom convinced me I wasn't quite mature enough for those more adult books. Ms. Blume autographed Tales of Fourth Grade Nothing for Me or maybe it was Superfudge. Those were my favorites. I'll have to dig around my dad's basement to see if they are still there.

    P.S. I also loved Madeleine L'Engle.

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  4. Amy, it's so funny that you mentioned also loving Madeleine L'Engle because I'm also re-reading "A Wrinkle In Time" right now! What an amazing piece of classic literature. Will be a fun summer of reading old faves. ;)

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  5. My mother handed me "Are You There God.." then after said, "Do you have any unanswered questions about periods?"

    I said no, that was "the talk"--the talk was given by Judy Blume.

    After you go through all those books and have a sense of the quality and appropriateness and content of books for preteens and young teens, read some of the trash published today. A number of series focus on shallow friendships, push drug use in high school, push alcohol, push promiscuity, sex with zero emotional attachments, date rape, eating disorders and tons of garbage. Probably my biggest issue is the characters are hurting and doing bad things but the books don't ever resolve the issues or show why their bad and dangerous choices are not good, they are just accepted as 'the way it is'. Weird. Gossip Girl series is one of them.

    Another problem is that the publishers and media like Teen People push the books down to younger readers than the age of the characters so that kids aged 9 are reading mean middle school stuff in Clique, 7th graders reading Gossip Girl (most characters in grade 12).

    I'm curious what you will think of today's books for girls aged 9-16.

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