Judy Blume Books Every Self-Respecting Girl Should Read
Censorship threats aside, these classics remain required reading. And the author, at 78, remains a badass.
Reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret under my comforter by flashlight is the first time I understood the significance of a period, something I had previously been only vaguely aware of when my mom was laid up with a scary-sounding affliction she called cramps.
But that was just one of a million things Judy Blume taught me. In fact, as a kid, I didn’t fully appreciate the way a middle-aged woman could so seamlessly occupy a tween brain, mostly because I myself had a tween brain and it was indistinguishable from Judy and her characters, all as loveably flawed as my own friends and family.
One thing I did appreciate, both then and now, is that a woman who looked a whole lot like my prim grandmother on the back cover of the book jacket could write so candidly about things like virginity, menstruation, and masturbation—the latter of which, 50 years after Deenie was published, is still a socially sensitive topic.
Tomorrow, your girl Judy turns 78 (according to her birth certificate, anyway—she’s forever 18, as far as we’re concerned) and we plan to celebrate under the covers, flashlight in hand, with a stack of books. You should do the same.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret: In addition to first periods, Margaret experienced—or observed, at least—a lot of other firsts before me, too: first bra, first crush, even first time playing Seven Minutes in Heaven (which turned out to be anything but divine for me). She was also the first half-Christian, half-Jewish person I'd ever known, and she's still my favorite, with the exception of Seth Cohen.
Deenie: When I was 15, my very patient mom snapped pictures as I struck amateurish poses in front of her white closet door. Then I submitted them to Seventeen magazine’s modeling contest. The editors must not have been impressed by my glasses or my braces or my curly hair that I insisted on brushing out into frizzy waves, because I didn’t win. But I did read Deenie shortly after the crushing loss. The pretty protagonist, who’s diagnosed with scoliosis and forced into a back brace for four years, assured me that there could be life after an unsuccessful modeling career.
Blubber: You’d think that teen bullying would have changed in a significant way since 1974, what with the invention of Snapchat, Instagram, and the internet in general. But Blubber, published when your parents were probably kids, remains remarkably relevant. Judy—a confirmed adult—has a way of writing about something as finger-waggy as bullying without sounding like a scolding PSA warning against the dangers of being mean. So, basically, unlike any adult you know.
Tiger Eyes: As a teen growing up in exactly the least exotic place on the map—a small town in Missouri—New Mexico, where most of Tiger Eyes takes place, felt exotic and intriguing to me. I never dated a bad boy, but I didn’t have to because Davey (who not only lives in a cooler place but also has a cooler name) did that for me.
Forever…: I could go on and on about this book, but John Green says it better. (John Green says everything better.) “I have a radically feminist mother, and so I was always taught that sexuality was, you know, good,” Green told The New York Times. “But there’s so many messages out there that sex is something that men do to women. It’s so hard not to internalize that. Forever... was a very different way of thinking about sex.”
Extra credit: Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing (because you don’t have to be in fourth grade to relate to Peter’s nothing status) and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t (because a coming-of-age story from the POV of a dude makes for a super enlightening read).