Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. Summary and Analysis of Chapters 10-12

Margaret goes to church for the first time with Janie Loomis, who is becoming one of Margaret's closest friends. Margaret observes that church is almost exactly like temple, except that the service is in English rather than in Hebrew; just as in temple, she counts the colorful hats in the rows in front of her. Janie introduces Margaret to the minister, and mentions that Margaret has no religion, which embarrasses Margaret. Later, Margaret speaks to God and apologizes for not feeling any sort of connection to God in church, and promises that she'll try harder next time.

Soon after this, the PTA announces that it will be hosting a Thanksgiving square dance for the sixth grade, and Nancy knows all about this event because her mother is on the organizing committee. For the square dance, all of the PTSes want to dance with Philip Leroy, the boy at the top of their Boy Books. For the next few weeks, the sixth-grade gym periods are devoted to square dancing lessons, and when Mr. Benedict needs to demonstrate steps, he uses the tall Laura Danker as his partner. This choice makes the PTSes exchange looks.

Then the dance itself arrives. The gym is decorated, the organizing adults wear costumes, and the class has an actual square dance caller to lead the event along. After some dancing, at last Margaret gets to dance with Philip Leroy, but he keeps stepping on her feet.

By December, the PTSes stop using their secret code names, which are too confusing, and abandon their Boy Books, since the names never change. Margaret wonders if they all put Philip Leroy simply because he's handsome and because the PTSes are all afraid to acknowledge which boys they really like. For one of the girls' meetings, Gretchen manages to steal her father's anatomy book, and the girls look at pictures of bodies, particularly male ones. Margaret also sneaks in one of her father's copies of Playboy magazine because the girls have never seen one, and as they look at it, they all wish they could grow up to look like the nude woman in the centerfold photo.

In the middle of December, Margaret's grandma goes on her annual three-week Caribbean cruise, and the family gives her a bon voyage party in her room on the ship. Margaret's mother then begins sending out holiday cards. Of course, the Simons don't really celebrate Christmas; they give presents, because it's an American custom, but they never celebrate the way people who belong to a set religion do. Yet Margaret discovers that her mother is sending Christmas cards to Margaret's maternal grandparents, who disapprove of their daughter's marriage and never speak to Margaret or her parents.

At school, Mr. Benedict's class prepares to serve as the choir in the annual Christmas-Hanukkah pageant. They practice singing five different Christmas carols and three Hanukkah songs, as well as marching with partners—a boy named Norman Fishbein ends up as Margaret's, and Margaret isn't at all thrilled by this circumstance. A week before the pageant, there's a bit of drama; a Jewish boy refuses to sing the Christmas songs because doing so is apparently against his religion, and a Christian girl refuses to sing the Hanukkah songs because doing so would be against hers. Aside from these objections, the pageant goes fairly smoothly.


As the holiday season approaches, Blume's chapters focus more and more on Margaret's religion dilemma. Margaret is disappointed by the lack of a special feeling she experiences when she visits church with Janie, and she is also confused by the fact that it's almost exactly like temple. The latter is an important point, and an important lesson in this novel—though different branches of religion may have different names and appear to be different, they are, in reality, all quite similar and meant for the same purpose. Margaret has been trying extremely hard to differentiate between Judaism and Christianity so that she can choose which she prefers, but the two faiths are a lot more similar than she could have predicted.

The small passages in which Margaret speaks to God are key components of this novel. Though Margaret does not yet belong to a religion, she still prays in her own personal way, and feels her own connection to God. It's fairly obvious that this connection is much stronger when she's alone and talking to him than when she's sitting in a congregation and trying to fit in, but she still feels pressured by the society around her (including her own beloved grandmother) to make a choice. If Margaret can realize that this connection she feels to God when she's alone is a form of genuine and rewarding faith, she might finally decide that she doesn't need to choose a religion right away.

It's interesting to note that despite the era when Blume's novel appeared—over 40 years ago—Margaret and her friends still behave almost exactly like many adolescent girls in the present day. This novel's depiction of preteens is truly universal. Just like today, the girls are always wishing to be something they are not yet or to have something they do not have—they want to grow up, they want their bodies to mature, they want their periods, they want Philip Leroy to like them. This is part of what makes this book so easy to relate to; all girls, at one point in their lives, have felt the way that Margaret and her friends do.

As Margaret settles into her new life, she begins to think more and more about boys. The girls study the male anatomy, discuss the boys in their class, and dream of becoming more appealing to them. But the point Margaret makes about the Boy Books is an important one, and shows her heightened awareness of the way she and her friends are behaving—Philip Leroy is probably only at the top of their books because he's handsome, and not because they particularly like him as a person. In a way, they are ashamed to admit which boys they really like; they have not yet reached the point where they are comfortable with their own feelings, because those feelings may not conform to the feelings of everyone else.