Book Pairing: Are You There, God? and The Girls’ Guide

A fun book pairing by two authors who explore the topics of love and growing up. | A book review by NewberyandBeyond.com
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I’m back from my blogging hiatus! I’ve been unable to post recently because of the chaos in my personal life, namely, my sister’s wedding! Everything went off without a hitch, and now I’m back home, settling in for the holidays and ready to kick off my end-of-year reviews with this book pairing.

Most of my last reviews of the year will be posts for the Reading to Distraction book pairing challenge (you can read the previous posts here, here, here, and here). Apparently, I couldn’t get it together to read these pairings until the last minute!

The books in this pairing are Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume and The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank. As always, here’s the BuzzFeed connection:

The troubles that Margaret Simon experiences in the Judy Blume classic — romantic anxiety, body confusion, the awkwardness of fitting in with new friends — are especially potent in the preteen years but by no means limited to them. Melissa Bank proves this as she follows protagonist Jane Rosenal from age 14 to her mid-twenties in a series of hilarious and heartbreaking stories of navigating love, work, and life.

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret

Margaret Simon, almost twelve, has just moved from New York City to the suburbs, and she’s anxious to fit in with her new friends. When she’s asked to join a secret club she jumps at the chance. But when the girls start talking about boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret starts to wonder if she’s normal. There are some things about growing up that are hard for her to talk about, even with her friends. Lucky for Margaret, she’s got someone else to confide in… someone who always listens. (Summary via Goodreads.com)

I have to admit, I never read this book as a kid, although I certainly heard about it. Now, reading it as an adult, it’s not nearly as risque as my childhood friends thought it was. The book is a bit dated, but Judy Blume really knows her stuff. Times may have changed, but the insecurities and frustrations of being a preteen girl certainly haven’t.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing

Generous-hearted and wickedly insightful, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing maps the progress of Jane Rosenal as she sets out on a personal and spirited expedition through the perilous terrain of sex, love, and relationships as well as the treacherous waters of the workplace. With an unforgettable comic touch, Bank skillfully teases out issues of the heart, puts a new spin on the mating dance, and captures in perfect pitch what it’s like to be a young woman coming of age in America today. (Summary via Goodreads.com)

This book is a quick read, and the first thing that will strike you about it is the beauty of the author’s writing. She is able to write a sentence that will make you look at ordinary things in a new way. You get the sense that Bank knows the people she is writing about, and she makes you know them, too. So my problem with this book wasn’t the writing or the characters, which are by turns humorous and heartbreaking, but the plot itself. Namely, that there isn’t much of one. The story is told in a series of vignettes, almost, and they are only loosely connected. Most are told from the viewpoint of Jane Rosenal, but a couple are not, and although all the sections center around the topic of love and heartbreak, I wish they worked together better to create a more cohesive whole.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

I can definitely see why these books make a good pairing. Both present the story of a girl who is growing up and exploring the subject of love–with mixed results. Although neither book was exactly my cup of tea, I’m glad to have read them both. Judy Blume and Melissa Bank both know how to write amazingly sympathetic MCs and draw you into their lives.

Have you read either of these books? How do you think they stack up to each other? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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