The Book That Changed Me Forever
Sunday Tribune 2009
(With thanks to all at the Sunday Tribune)

The book that changed me forever was Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (1970).

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret book scans

Here's how it starts: 'I just told my mother I wanted a bra. Please help me grow, God. You know where. I just want to be normal...'

I just adore Margaret Simon from Judy's Blume's teenage classic. I was eleven when I first read it, and for two whole days she was my best friend, my confident.

I flew through it, even reading it under the covers with the light from my digital watch – it's a wonder my eyes survived! I carried it around with me for a week after finishing it, I was so attached to Margaret and her story I just couldn't let her go.

I can't remember who first gave the book to me, probably my mum; she was fairly progressive about my reading material. Although she didn't 'approve' of Forever, another Blume book, and one of the first teenage books to deal with sex, she still let me read it.

In 1996, while working in Waterstone's as the new Children's Buyer, I met Judy Blume and that changed my life. She was so amazingly cool – open, friendly, funny – like a big kid herself. We had lunch in La Stampa and gabbled for hours about children's books – she read everything from picture books to teenage books. It made me realise that it was OK to love children's books, even if I was in my 20's!

I've re-read Are You There, God? many times; 39 years on, as it's still as fresh and topical as ever. Her books inspired me to try writing for teens myself, and the main character of my very first young teen novel, Amy Green, in her honesty, confusion, and loyalty, owes a lot to Margaret.

I still have the letter Judy sent me after our meeting (see below), curly blue writing on pink notepaper. It's one of my most treasured possessions. I'm proud to be following in her teen writing footsteps.

Letter from Judy Blume