'Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret' Is Hitting the Big Screen

By: Alia Hoyt  | 
Kathy Bates as Sylvia Simon and Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret Simon in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
Judy Blume's beloved coming of age novel "Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret" is finally heading to the big screen in April starring Kathy Bates (left) as Sylvia Simon, Margaret's grandmother, and Abby Ryder Fortson (right), as Margaret. Dana Hawley/Lionsgate

For more than four decades, the Judy Blume novel "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" has helped girls understand such "taboo" topics as getting your period or buying your first bra. And for almost as long, Blume turned down requests from producers to turn the beloved novel into a movie.

But all that changed in October 2018 when Blume granted the film rights to producer James L. Brooks' Gracie Films and to Kelly Fremon Craig who wrote and directed the teen-oriented film "The Edge of Seventeen."


And finally, girls (and women!) everywhere who've been waiting since that announcement don't have much longer to wait. The movie adaptation of the book premieres April 28 and we couldn't be more excited.

"[We've] spent much time together talking about 'Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret' and [I'm] so looking forward to seeing their combined visions of 'Margaret' on the screen," Blume told us in an emailed statement in 2018.


Timeless Coming of Age Book

Judy Blume's beloved book debuted in 1970 and has been read by countless girls ever since.
Judy Blume's beloved book debuted in 1970 and has been read by countless girls ever since. AARON DAVIDSON/GETTY IMAGES

So what makes this novel so special? Published in 1970, "Are You There God? It's Me Margaret" 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, Margaret talks to God throughout the book as she navigates growing up (particularly about 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," young adult author and former Viking Children's Books editor Leila Sales said in an email when we talked to her in 2018. "It treated the ordinary experiences common to basically every young teen girl as something important enough to write a book about," 


That approach 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," Ellen Mangold in Thompson's Station, Tennessee, said in an email. "I remember feeling like [Blume] 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. The book presented religion as a choice instead of something you were born into. That was a first for many readers. 

Although the book is largely fiction, author Blume drew on personal experiences 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."


Courting Controversy

Rachel McAdams as Barbara Dimon and Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret Simon in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Photo Credit: Dana Hawley
Rachel McAdams plays Barbara Simon and Abby Ryder Fortson stars as Margaret Simon in the film adaptation of the beloved book, "Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret." Dana Hawley/Lionsgate

While the book explored coming of age with candid humor that resonated with readers, it wasn't without its detractors. Despite Blume's good intentions, the story's perceived sexual and "anti-Christian" subject matter caused much controversy.

As a result, the presence of the book was fought in plenty of libraries around the country, although only removed from those in Gilbert, Arizona, elementary schools. Other schools opted to require a written note of approval from parents for checkout.


Despite these roadblocks, however, "Are You There God?" became a societal turning point that resonates with mothers and daughters around the world even today.

"I remember how it made me feel: normal and heard and like it was going to be OK. And I remember thinking Judy Blume was the only grownup on Earth who remembered what it was like to be a young girl," Michelle Brownlee of Spring Hill, Tennessee said. "She normalized things that were not discussed at home and only whispered about among friends."


From Book to Big Screen

Kathy Bates stars as Sylvia Simon, Margaret's grandmother, in "Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret."
 Margaret's grandmother Sylvia (played by Kathy Bates) is also dealing with her own life issues. Dana Hawley/Lionsgate

In the big-screen adaptation, 11-year-old Margaret is played by Abby Ryder Fortson who's uprooted from her life in New York City and moves to the suburbs of New Jersey.

Margaret relies on her mother, Barbara (played by Rachel McAdams), who also is struggling to adjust to their new life outside the Big Apple, and her adoring grandmother, Sylvia (played by Kathy Bates) who is also learning how to live in this latest phase of her own life. The movie opens April 28, 2023 in theaters everywhere.