So what makes this novel so special? Published in 1970, it tells the story of an 11-year-old girl named Margaret Simon who's the daughter of a Jewish father and a Christian mother. Raised without any particular faith, she talks to God throughout the book as she navigates growing up (particularly getting her period) and tries to figure out which religion she should join.
"As far as I'm aware, it was the first novel written for young adolescent girls that accurately, thoroughly, and non-judgmentally described puberty. It treated the ordinary experiences common to basically every young teen girl as something important enough to write a book about," says young adult author and former Viking Children's Books editor Leila Sales in an email interview.
That approached resonated well with preteen girls. "My mom didn't tell me squat about puberty and other than a pamphlet my sister brought home from a health class at school (which was AWFUL), I had Judy Blume as my only guide," says Ellen Mangold in Thompson's Station, Tennessee, in an email. "I remember feeling like she had captured all my crazy thoughts on paper. I was so glad to know that I wasn't the only person who worried about all that stuff."
While just about everyone remembers many of the more-gimmicky aspects of the book (like the group chant "We must, we must, we must increase our bust!") "Are You There, God?" also opened a lot of young eyes to religious differences and options. "I think it was the first time that I saw religion presented as a choice, rather than something you were just born into," explains Courtney Hood, who works for an Atlanta-based publishing house.
Although the book is largely fiction, author Blume drew on personal experience to develop the religious aspect, writing on her website that like Margaret, she "had a very personal relationship with God that had little to do with organized religion. God was my friend and confidant."