The literary term for a novel such as Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret is bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story. Throughout the course of the school year described in this novel, Margaret truly does come of age, transitioning from a young girl to a young woman and learning much in the process about her desires, her companions, and the way the world works. Margaret hits many milestones in the course of her journey—her first crush, her first bra, her first kiss, her first period—and at the end, she ceases to constantly wish she were someone else and learns to be satisfied in her own skin.
Religion plays an important role in Margaret's life, but not in the manner that many readers might expect: rather than adhering to formal religious principles, Margaret doesn't have a set faith. Throughout the novel, she tries desperately to discover where she fits—Judaism or Christianity—and deals repeatedly with the pressures and biases of the adults around her. But Margaret's true connection to religion comes not when she sits in a mass or at temple, but when she is alone and talks to God on her own. In such private conditions, she truly feels a sense of religious devotion.
A huge part of adolescence is the pressure to conform, and Margaret feels that pressure more strongly than ever after she moves to New Jersey. As the new girl in her public school, she tries extremely hard to fit in and find her place, and as a result of peer pressure does some things she might not normally do; for instance, she helps to "initiate" the new teacher, Mr. Benedict, with tricks and pranks. She also feels the pressure to conform in religious matters; because it isn't normal for a girl her age not to have a faith, she feels that she needs to select one as soon as possible in order to be like everyone else.
The very first person to reach out and welcome Margaret to her new home—Nancy—becomes Margaret's best friend, and through her, Margaret makes other friends who are crucial to her development. Margaret's friends make her feel that she belongs, and she regards their offered advice and wisdom with great seriousness. Her friendship with Nancy is tested when she learns that Nancy lied about getting her period, but Margaret realizes that their bond is more important than holding a grudge. In Blume's narrative, friendship is a crucial component of growing up, and Margaret would not have confronted the challenges of adolescence quite as easily without her friends by her side.
Though Margaret's family situation is in many ways a subplot, Margaret's parents and grandparents still play important roles in her development. Margaret's family structure is a bit unusual for her time; she has two loving parents, yes, but no siblings and only one grandmother who speaks to her (and who can sometimes be a little too doting). The Simons' family bonds are tested when her Margaret's distant maternal grandparents come to visit, and this meeting certainly does not end with a happy reconciliation. In the end, however, Margaret realizes that the people who are truly important are always ready to provide her with all the love and affection she needs.
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret explores the trials and tribulations of that turbulent period called adolescence. During this stage in life, puberty takes control, and hormones and emotions run rampant as young people try to cope with growing up physically and trying to fit in socially all at the same time. Adolescence is certainly a struggle for Margaret, who feels that she is behind her peers in many ways, but she handles it the best she can. While Margaret's adolescent stage doesn't come to a conclusion in the novel, Margaret does seem to have a better grasp of her own identity by the final chapter.
Children can be verbally vicious, and this fact is most prominently exemplified through the character of Laura Danker. Laura has not actually done anything to merit the other students' shoddy treatment of her; she has simply grown and developed more quickly than they have, yet as a result, the other children her age spread rumors that Laura is sexually active. Much of this gossip is motivated by jealousy, at least on the part of the sixth-grade girls. Yet in the end, Margaret realizes how powerful rumors can be and comes to understand that she shouldn't believe everything she hears; it's much better to get to know someone in depth, and in person, before forming judgments.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.