Survey 100 random women today from ages 25- 50 and you're bound to find the bulk of them are Judy Blume fans.
Blume's books formed the backbone of our personal libraries while we were growing up, and we thank goodness for it. Her down-to-earth, empathetic, and never judgmental writing style were soothing, and often a provided us a place to turn during our less-than-awesome formative years.
Here are our Top 10 Judy Blume novels - each one distinct and unique, each one awesome just the same.
This Blume classic is the ultimate - and most realistic - User's Guide to getting your first period ever written.
Margaret Simon is both eager and horrified at the thought of getting her period. (At 42 years-old, and still relying on birth control, I feel a kindred spirit with Margaret.)
Add to this anxiety some some existential crisis, antisemitic rhetoric, familial estrangement, and religious debate, and you've got some nice light reading for a 12 year-old.
And yet from all these heavy themes I most vividly recall the the tip to use a facecloth as an emergency maxi pad.
It's 2015 and we now know that divorce doesn't have to be the end of the world, but in 1972 it was even harder to believe.
Karen Newman's father has made it known that he plans to head to Nevada to seek divorce (what?) leaving Karen and her brother Jeff home to blame their mother (whaaaaaat?) Not cool, brother Jeff; not cool. Despite her husband heading off to end the marriage without her, Karen's mother Ellie is pretty pumped. And who wouldn't be? I found her husband William to be about as much fun as a bag of toilet brushes, yet Blume's intention was probably not to have It's Not the End of The World be a "feel good" novel because poor Karen.
This is the interesting thing about reading a novel about kids, parents, and divorce after you have been a kid, are a parent, and are now yourself getting a divorce.
Basically, synopsis thus: marriage is hard, yo.
Deenie Fenner is 13, conventionally beautiful, and has scoliosis. And uh oh, Deenie; you live in a time when wearing a back brace seriously sucked because it was also the era of social torture devices like braces with head gear and eye glass frames for kids that came in only two styles: "High School Shop Teacher" and "Cold War President."
But let's be honest: Deenie was pretty enough to model and wearing a brace for a few years felt like an okay trade for this mousey and awkward 12 year-old reader who also had scoliosis. I was saved the brace torture, and instead told that I had finished growing at 5'3" and I may as well make my peace with having a curved spine and one sleeve would always fall lower on one wrist.
Still, we rooted for Deenie and her sister Helen, "the smart one," as they finally pushed back against their overbearing mother who we secretly wanted to fall into a hole of bears.
This one is complicated. Sally Freeman is a spirited and imaginative girl whose family relocates to Miami for the sake of her brother's health. Her brother is not a senior citizen.
While Sally is only 10, her conscience is about to celebrate it's 64th birthday, because this girl has the weight of the world on her shoulders. She rallies against racism, anti-semitism, agesim, and you-have-lice-ism in only a slim novel, but ultimately emerges the victor.
The novel is succinctly summed up as such: "In the one year Sally spends at Miami, she learns how babies are made, attends but loses a contest, drinks whiskey while attempting to make Creme de Cacao, kisses Peter at their teacher's wedding, and in the end, strengthens her relationship with her family members."
Add in "bar fight" and that was my last year of University.
Divorce, a 13th birthday, moving, changing schools, getting your period, flagging self-esteem, and making new friends.
This book is what happens when you leave several Judy Blume novels on a dark, intimate bookshelf with an uncorked bottle of Pinot Grigio and leave them alone for the weekend.
Then Again Maybe I Won't is my favourite Judy Blume book and I still have it in hardcover with my name written in beginner cursive ont he front cover. It was also the first book that most of us read that allowed us to view the young teen boy's point of view of puberty and the assorted clusterfuckery which accompanies it. While I can't vouch for its accuracy (not being a man myself) I can say that it reads as a pretty genuine depiction of the turmoil boys also experience during puberty. Reading about wet dreams was... interesting...but the book had so much more we could relate to, like those stomach aches only the highly anxious are blessed with.
In the end, Tony Miglione learns that while life can suck hard sometimes (death, cancer, quasi-sociopathic neighbours), it can also have glimpses of bright, unbridled joy (making your Gramma happy, new babies).
Based on the list of Judy Blume books so far, we can draw one irrefutable conclusion: coming of age during the 1970s fucking sucked. Because if these novels are to used as a reputable yardstick (and I believe they are) then things for school-age kids was grim in the avocado-colured macrame decade.
Blubber tells the story of a group of suburban girls: Linda, a previously well-liked school girl, and Jill, Wendy, and Caroline, the biggest assholes in fifth grade. When Linda dares to have an original Halloween costume idea, the former friends come down hard in the bully department and thrust the "Blubber" moniker on Linda, much to the delight of the rest of those stupid fifth grade jerks in the school.
Seriously; this book still makes me all ragey, because you were either a Jill, a Linda, a Wendy, or you knew one. That's part of the book's appeal - it's a universal experience. Just substitute "Blubber" for "Poor Girl" and there you have it, my sixth grade gym change room experience in a nutshell, including my very own real life, seriosuly-she-was-also-named named Jill.
But hey; I'm over it.
No. No, I'm not.
I DON'T FORGET ANYTHING, JILLIAN.
Okay, this is where things get good, and I mean sexy times good. Can I say that? I'm a parent now - to a teenager, no less - so I am probably not supposed to say that this book about teenagers having sex was one of my favourites when I was a horny 17 year-old. BUT IT IS GOOD. Forever took us where other books didn't.
Blume does writes about sex in many of her books, either through allusion or directly, but it usually refers to adults or parents or sex as an act the protagonists are looking ahead to. Instead, Forever puts Katherine and Michael directly into the action, and the description of a first sexual encounter is pretty bang on. (Sorry.)
Second favourite thing about this book: It is Katherine who makes the decision about moving past old relationships, which positions her as feminist-minded female character who exhibits personal autonomy and sexual agency. Bravo, Katherine!
What would you do if you realized your parents and neighbours and basically everyone you knew were racist asshats who discouraged you from befriending a new family in the neighbourhood because their skin was another colour? Welcome to Winnie Barringer's life, folks! It's a real pleasure ride, but it's got nothing on the experience of the new-to-the-area family, the Garbers'.
When Winnie's best friend Iggie moves to Toyko, the family who moves into their old house are black and it's 1970 and people are horrible showing nothing has changed in 40 years which is maybe the first takeaway here. Winnie hears her white family and friends talk shit about "property values" and "those people" and also they wear some pretty terrible corduroy jumpers. The white people in this book are pretty much terrible from beginning to end and I'm loathe to recommend it here except for the fact that it's not my discomfort that matters.
This is a good book. Make your kids read it.
I read this book in 1986 and my nose is still stuffy from crying.
Davey and her family face possibly the worst thing a family can - the sudden and unexpected death of their father and beloved husband, and then, adding insult to injury, they have to move to New Mexico to live with relatives "for financial reasons." New Mexico! Give me Old Mexico and maybe I can deal. New Mexico? NO THANKS.
And nothing good ever happens for "financial reasons." Financial reasons are why we stop eating name brand cheese and have to wear hand-me-down sweaters. No one goes to New Mexico for a joy ride. They go for "financial reasons."
Davey is in a funk, and of course she is. Her dad is dead, she had to move, and her aunt and uncle are afraid of anything that breathes, which severely limits her ability to be a regular teenager who likes to climb into canyons striking up intimate relationships with strange and beautiful boys named "Wolf."
Jeni Marinucci is YMC's Creative Director. She has a guilty conscience, a love for humour, and a questionable home-haircut. After her children were old enough to make their own sandwiches, she returned to University to complete her B.A. in English Literature—a designation which has provided her with an extensive library and crushing student loans. When no teaching college wanted her, she had to choose between taking orders through a drive-thru window or from an editor. She chose the latter.