This book seems to be the quintessential preteen book for girls. I am 32 and have never read it, but it was still out there in the ether and I knew mostly what is what about: periods and wanting to not be flat-chested. But this book just didn’t live up to the expectations I had. I wonder if there were not and continue to not be any books that deal frankly with puberty.
This book isn’t really about those things though, and it suffers from lack of real direction. By far, the more interesting plot line is what is happening between her parents, and the battles over religion. In some ways, we are shown glimpses of adult problems through the viewpoint of an 11 year old girl who honestly could not care less about it. That angle I find interesting. A story within a story, if you will. But the actual forefront of the story about Margaret navigating 6th grade in a new school and the onset of puberty was severely lacking.
Aside from the staggering amount of typos, this has not aged very well. I was also a little disappointed to discover that the book had been updated and edited in order to reflect changes in feminine hygiene products (we no longer use something called menstrual garter belts, they have adhesives now). There are a lot of things in this book that don’t make sense in the context of the modern age, and I feel like those other things should have been left in to give a more complete picture of what growing up in the 1970s was like. My biggest problem was the character of Mr. Benedict, the 6th grade teacher. Blume explains that he is new and this is his first year teaching, but this guy is completely inappropriate. In what way is it okay to give a student the 3rd degree on how they feel about religious holidays? Don’t give a writing prompt of “I hate” if you don’t want students to strongly dislike things. Of course, in 2015, most public school teachers probably stay far away from discussing religion with students.
Another huge issue is the complete dropping of plot threads. There are no resolutions in this book. The book ends during summer vacation, when we don’t know how Margaret did on her year-long project (what teacher assigns a non-graded year-long paper?), how things resolve between her and both sets of grandparents, how her mother feels, even how she feels at all about religion other than a big shrug, and if anything will ever come of her and Moose. Instead, we get Margaret starting her period. Hurray, she’s not the last one of her “friends”.
Also, in reference to those “friends”. They call themselves the “PTS’s” or some such nonsense, and they are horrible to each other. Are they supposed to be the “popular” girls, or just a clique? It’s really hard to tell since, although there are more girls than boys in her 6th grade class, the only other girl that is ever mentioned is Laura Danker, who apparently has boobs and is tall, and all the boys can’t stop teasing her. Margaret even thinks her 25 year old teacher is attracted to Laura, which is bananas. These kids are 11 and 12!
I want the story about Margaret’s mom, Barbara. She seems to be the most interesting person.
This book fulfilled no requirements for the challenge.