Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret was Blume’s first weighty novel attempting to tackle a major problem (or problems) she associated with her own childhood: moving to a new community, separating from family, and coming into physical maturity. Margaret, the story’s protagonist, relocates from New York City to a new town and school in suburban New Jersey. Though skeptical about her new surroundings, she quickly makes friends—an assemblage of girls who come to identify themselves as the Pre-Teen Sensations. It is among these girls that Margaret discovers the complex relations surrounding a variety of prepubescent issues including boys, menstruation, and petty jealousies surrounding girls who have had greater success with either of the former.
As the title indicates, the focus of the book centers around Margaret coming to terms with herself and her heritage as she tries to discover in what religious community she wishes to participate: Judaism or Christianity. Margaret’s mother, recovering from trauma at the hands of her proselytizing Christian parents, and Margaret’s father, shunned by his in-laws because he is Jewish, have decided that Margaret could choose her own religion when she is old enough to decide for herself.
Unfortunately for Margaret, “old enough” comes about through an assignment from her new teacher, Mr. Benedict, who assigns the individual class members a year-long study of something meaningful to them....
(The entire section is 491 words.)
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Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret is a funny, reassuring novel. The humor of the novel arises from three sources: reversals of expectations, ambiguous actions that are misperceived, and Margaret's unintentionally funny narration. Many reversals occur in the novel; for instance, the students in Margaret's sixth-grade class try to fool their teacher, Miles J. Benedict, by not writing their names on a test only to find graded tests on the appropriate desks the next class period because Benedict recognized his students' handwriting, and thus the tricksters are tricked. When Margaret and the other girls in the PTS club do their breast increasing exercises to the chant, "We must, we must, we must increase our busts," they are hoping to impress boys by improving their appearance, but they are laughed at by Moose Freed and Nancy's brother, Evan, who overhear the "secret" meeting. This is an example of comic ambiguity, an action fine under one set of circumstances but inappropriate in others. Margaret's language in her first-person narration brims with humor. In one of her diary entries, Margaret asks God if he would mind her doing a project on religion, assuring him that she would "tell you all about it." Margaret's mine of misinformation leads to several comic anxieties, such as her fear that she will catch Laura Danker's bad reputation by sitting next to her.
In addition to its rich humor, the novel addresses two serious subjects: sexual maturation and Margaret's involvement with religion. Margaret's anxieties about her appearance and growth are those of every adolescent. Margaret's solution to her anxietyÂaccepting herself and letting time produce the changes she desiresÂis possible only when Margaret realizes her truth is more important to her than Nancy's lies about menstruation. Margaret learns religious toleration from seeing the suffering of her parents, who have married outside the faiths of their families. Religious and racial intolerance and bigotry tear apart many young adults' lives, so Margaret's pain is readily understandable.
For an adolescent going through a crisis similar to Margaret's, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret will not only be a book but an understanding friend. Perhaps because of this quality, the novel was included on the New York Times list of Outstanding Books in 1970 and the American Library Association's List of Notable Books 1940-1970.
(The entire section is 384 words.)
Chapter 1 Summary
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret begins as Margaret Simon talks to God. Her words sound like they belong in any ordinary conversation; she doesn't use the dears and amens people usually use in prayers. She tells God she is moving to New Jersey, which she hopes will not "be too horrible." She worries that she will hate her new school, or that her new classmates will hate her.
Margaret feels suspicious of her parents’ motives for moving. She has been away at camp for most of the summer, and now that she is home, she finds that her parents have bought a house in New Jersey. When she asks why, they say all the other suburbs are “too social,” “too expensive,” or “too inconvenient.” This answer frustrates Margaret, who does not understand why she has to leave New York City in the first place.
Margaret’s parents try to get her excited by telling her all about the garden they will have and the public school she will attend. These conversations just confuse Margaret, who never knew her parents liked gardens or public schools.
Privately, Margaret thinks her parents are moving because of Grandma—also known as Sylvia Simon—who is a little controlling. Margaret loves Grandma, who knits her special sweaters and buys all kinds of cool presents. Until now, Grandma has always paid Margaret’s private school tuition, too. It upsets Margaret that Grandma “won’t be able to” do that anymore.
Although Grandma pays for some things, Margaret’s family is not poor. They are doing just fine, largely because she lacks brothers and sisters, which “cuts way down on food and clothes.” Her parents wanted more kids but never had any, and Margaret is glad. It means she does not have to get into fights all the time.
But it means Margaret needs an ally sometimes, and Grandma usually fills that role for her. Thinking it over, Margaret feels certain her parents are moving just to make sure Grandma does not influence Margaret so much. Grandma has no car, and she hates trains and buses. This means she is unlikely to visit New Jersey, which will be sad.
From Margaret’s perspective, the only good thing about the move is that she will no longer have to listen to Grandma's questions about boyfriends. Every time Grandma visits, she asks whether Margaret has found a special boy yet and whether he is Jewish. This annoys Margaret because she is...
(The entire section is 438 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Almost as soon as Margaret’s family arrives at the new house, a girl named Nancy Wheeler knocks on the door and invites her over.
Nancy turns out to be quite intimidating. She brags that her breasts are beginning to develop and points out that Margaret’s are still flat. Nancy has an impressive make-up collection, but she is not allowed to wear make-up outside yet. She claims to be a good kisser, too, because she practices on her pillow all the time. However, she admits she has never kissed an actual boy. This comes as a relief to Margaret, who has never kissed a boy either.
At Nancy’s house, Margaret meets Nancy’s mom, Mrs. Wheeler. Mrs. Wheeler gives Margaret “the third degree” about her father’s insurance job and her mother’s artwork. When Mrs. Wheeler offers to let Margaret join the Sunday school carpool, Margaret says she does not go to church. Mrs. Wheeler seems surprised; Nancy, embarrassed, drags Margaret away.
Out in the front yard, the girls play in the sprinkler until Nancy’s fourteen-year-old brother Evan sprays them hard as a joke. This makes Nancy mad, and she runs inside to tattle. Meanwhile, Margaret is left alone with Evan and his friend Moose. She regards them suspiciously, wrapping her towel tightly around her. Nancy has claimed that boys their age think of nothing but “naked girls and dirty books,” and Margaret is not taking any chances.
Evan and Moose say nothing about sex or nakedness to Margaret. Moose only talks about his lawn cutting service, and he insists that she recommend him to her father. She memorizes his name and information and promises to pass on the message. Privately, she thinks that Moose is good-looking, but she decides not to say so to Nancy.
A few minutes later, Nancy walks Margaret home. The two of them are going to be in the same class at school, so they make plans to walk together on the first day. Nancy insists that Margaret not wear socks to school. Otherwise the other girls will think she is “a baby” will not want her to be in their secret club. Nancy promises to reveal more about this club when school starts.
That evening, Margaret talks to God about her new house. She describes her room and admits that the suburbs sound scary at night. She also asks God to “arrange” for her breasts to start developing soon.
When this is done, Margaret reflects that her parents do not know she talks to...
(The entire section is 447 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
At first, Margaret’s father is not interested in hiring Moose to cut his lawn. He says he wants to do it himself. However, on his first attempt to use the lawnmower, he tries to empty the bag of grass clippings while the motor is running. He cuts himself so badly that Margaret thinks he may lose a finger. On the way to the hospital, she asks God to make sure her father ends up okay. As it turns out, he needs eight stitches, and he decides to hire Moose after all.
Early in the morning on Labor Day, Margaret wakes up to the sound of knocking at the door. She finds Grandma on the front steps, her arms loaded with food from a New York delicatessen. Grandma insists that New Jersey food is not as good. Margaret disagrees but does not try to argue. It is pointless to try to change Grandma's mind about anything.
Instead, Margaret asks how Grandma got to New Jersey. Grandma explains that, even though she hates all forms of public transportation, she decided to take a train to visit her only granddaughter. This delights Margaret.
When Margaret’s parents wake up, she rushes upstairs to tell them that Grandma is here. They are shocked, and they both say it is “impossible” that Grandma could have overcome her dislike of trains so quickly. They do not go so far as to say anything mean in front of Margaret, but they definitely do not seem excited about this visit.
When Margaret’s parents come downstairs, they act like Grandma’s visit is a “wonderful surprise.” They call her “clever” for finding her way to their new house when they had not yet told her the address. Then they all eat the New York breakfast she cooks them.
After breakfast, Margaret shows Grandma her room. Grandma says she would like to buy Margaret a new set of bedroom things. She begins to list them off—but halfway through, she stops herself and heaves a sigh. “But I guess your mother wants to fix [your room] up herself,” she says. Margaret agrees that this is probably true. After that, Grandma keeps her opinions about Margaret's bedroom to herself.
However, Grandma does not remain silent on the subject of New Jersey’s food. All day, she makes a point of eating the New York food she brought. With every bite, she moans with pleasure and says, “Nothing like the real thing.” Margaret finds this funny, but her parents do not.
Before Grandma leaves, she takes Margaret aside and...
(The entire section is 468 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
The night before school starts, Margaret washes and curls her hair. In the morning, she is so nervous she cannot eat breakfast. Her mother comments that she felt the same way as a child. This annoys Margaret:
My mother’s always telling me about when she was a girl. It’s supposed to make me feel that she understands everything.
But Margaret’s mother does not understand everything. For instance, she cannot understand why Margaret refuses to wear socks to school. She says Margaret will get blisters on her feet and acts like it is ridiculous to put up with such a thing. But Nancy specifically told Margaret that only babies wear socks, and being considered a baby is much worse than getting blisters.
The walk to school is three-quarters of a mile, and Margaret’s sockless feet hurt badly by the time she arrives. Half of the girls are wearing socks, so she feels vaguely annoyed that Nancy told her to go without. However, Nancy and her friends are all sockless like Margaret.
When Margaret arrives in her classroom, she thinks one of her classmates is the teacher. This girl is as tall as a grown woman, and she obviously wears a bra. Margaret observes with awe that the bra is “not the smallest size.”
Then the actual teacher comes in—a man named Mr. Benedict. The kids are shocked by the idea of a male teacher, and they fall silent to hear him speak. Even so, Mr. Benedict seems nervous. He says um constantly, and he admits that this is his first year teaching.
Mr. Benedict asks the students to write a few introductory sentences about themselves, and Margaret regards the task as a challenge. Telling him her name is easy, of course, but she struggles to decide what to say about her likes and dislikes. She has millions of both, and she has no idea what he might want to know. After some hemming and hawing, she lists the following likes: “long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain and things that are pink.” Her dislikes are similarly eclectic: “pimples, baked potatoes, when my mother is mad and religious holidays.”
Mr. Benedict’s final request is that students say what they think about male teachers. This one is especially hard for Margaret. She has never had a male teacher before, and she does not think all female teachers are particularly similar anyway. But she has to write something, so she plays it safe...
(The entire section is 449 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
Margaret goes to Nancy’s house for the meeting of the secret club. It turns out there are only two other members, both from their class at the new school: Janie Louis and Gretchen Potter.
At the meeting, the four girls eat cookies and chat. Nancy teases Gretchen, who is a bit overweight, for taking too many cookies. Then the conversation turns to Laura Danker, the tall and big-breasted girl from class. Margaret learns that Laura “has a bad reputation.” Her body developed early, and that makes older guys, maybe even Mr. Benedict, show interest. Plus, Laura probably gets her period already.
The subject of periods worries Margaret because she has not started menstruating yet. When the others ask her about it, she admits the truth—and they all say they have not had their periods either. Margaret is relieved because she does not want to be the odd one out.
Nancy, who seems to be the boss of the secret club, says that everyone should think up a name for the group. Margaret has no ideas because she does not even know what the club does. Janie and Gretchen each make suggestions that get voted down. In the end, it is Nancy who comes up with the new name: they will be the four PTSs, or Pre-Teen Sensations.
Next, the girls agree to use secret names during club meetings, and they agree that everyone should make a rule about what the club will do. Nancy’s rule is that everyone has to wear a bra, which makes Margaret nervous because she does not wear one yet. Gretchen’s rule is that they have to tell each other when they get their periods. Janie’s rule is that everyone has to make a book containing the names of the boys they like. Then it is Margaret’s turn, and she cannot think of anything to add. After a bit of hemming and hawing, she says they should all agree on a certain day of the week to meet.
As it turns out, the business of agreeing on a meeting day is rather difficult. Gretchen has the most commitments because she attends Hebrew school on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Nancy asks if Margaret will attend this school, too, and Margaret says no. This impresses Nancy, who thinks it is cool for a kid to avoid both Sunday school and Hebrew school. She asks how Margaret manages it.
Somewhat uncomfortably, Margaret explains that her father grew up Jewish and her mother grew up Christian. When the two of them fell in love, both of their families resisted. In the...
(The entire section is 617 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
At school the next day, Mr. Benedict asks to speak privately with Margaret, and he asks why she wrote that she does not like religious holidays. This makes Margaret nervous because she is the only one singled out like this. Does Mr. Benedict think she is abnormal?
Margaret tries to dodge Mr. Benedict's question, but he presses her for an answer. Eventually she admits that her family is not religious. He seems pleased by this explanation, which comes as a relief to Margaret. Still, as she goes out to recess, she reflects that nobody in New York ever cared about her religion. Here in New Jersey, it seems to be the main thing on everyone’s mind—and the main thing that makes her stand out.
That evening, Grandma calls to say she has bought season tickets to the Lincoln Center for herself and Margaret. This pleases Margaret, who will enjoy spending time with Grandma every month. She knows that her parents will allow these visits because they involve high culture, which her parents deem vital.
On Saturday, Moose comes to mow the lawn. Margaret’s father hides indoors so nobody sees his still-bandaged hand, but Margaret goes outside to watch Moose work. She brings a book along and pretends to read it whenever he glances her way, but mainly she admires his smile and the way he hums while he mows. Privately, she reflects that she would write his name in her boy book if she dared. But Nancy hates Moose for being friends with her brother, and Margaret is scared to do anything Nancy might not like.
In the afternoon, Margaret and her mother go bra shopping. Their first stop is the ladies’ lingerie department, but the saleswoman directs them to the teen department instead. According to her, the teen department is the only place with bras in “very small sizes.” Margaret finds this statement embarrassing.
At the teen department, Margaret hangs back and lets her mother do the talking. Then the saleswoman measures Margaret’s chest and, with a small smile at Margaret’s mother, suggests something called a Gro-Bra. “It grows with you,” she explains: “You’re not quite ready for the double-A.”
Margaret takes a selection of Gro-Bras to the dressing room, but she cannot get the bras on by herself. Her mother has to come in to help. After trying them, Margaret tentatively chooses the one she finds least uncomfortable.
When Margaret’s mother goes to pay for...
(The entire section is 474 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
At home, Margaret puts on a new bra. She cannot work the clasp behind her back properly, but she does not want to ask her mother for help getting dressed every day. Eventually she works out a way to clasp the bra around her waist and then squirm until she gets the thing on properly. Just out of curiosity, she stuffs the bra with a couple of socks to see how it looks. She likes the effect—but she takes the socks out before leaving her room.
On Monday, Margaret looks carefully at all the boys in her class and picks two names to write on her list. Her choices are Philip Leroy, the best-looking boy in the class, and Jay Hassler, who has pretty eyes and clean hands. She sticks with just two names, figuring that she can tell the others she does not know many boys in New Jersey yet.
At the end of the day, Mr. Benedict asks everyone in the class to do a project on a meaningful subject for the rest of the year. The kids groan at this idea, and he seems disappointed. He expected them to be excited.
After school, the PTSs meet at Nancy’s house. They call each other by their pretend names and check under everyone’s shirts to make sure they are all wearing bras. Janie, Gretchen, and Margaret all admit that they are wearing Gro-Bras. Only Nancy has a double-A, and the others are impressed.
Nancy claims that the secret to growing boobs is to work out every day. She demonstrates an elaborate exercise involving bending the arms and sticking out the chest. While doing this, she chants, “I must—I must—I must increase my bust.” Everyone else copies her and agrees to do the exercise every day.
Next, the four girls compare boy books. Everyone else has more names than Margaret, especially Nancy, who has listed eighteen boys she likes. But Margaret is pleased to see that she has chosen her number one boy correctly: Philip Leroy tops of all four lists. Nancy merely nods at Janie’s and Gretchen’s lists, but she demands to know why Margaret picked Jay Hassler. It annoys Margaret to be singled out to explain her choice, so raises an eyebrow instead of answering. Nancy backs off.
Unfortunately, the club meeting ends badly. The girls discover Evan and Moose listening at the door. The boys laugh and recite Nancy’s chant about increasing her bust. This leaves the girls embarrassed.
At school the next day, some of the kids act up. Margaret joins in reluctantly because...
(The entire section is 600 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
On Friday, Margaret and her classmates arrive at school to find their history tests graded and labeled correctly by name. Margaret is thrilled with her high A, but some other kids are not so happy. Mr. Benedict says nothing about the nameless tests, but he looks cheerful. Margaret guesses that he knows he won a round.
During class, Mr. Benedict brings up the subject of the special projects. Margaret worries about how to choose a meaningful topic. Plenty of things are meaningful to her, but it would be embarrassing to share them with Mr. Benedict. She definitely does not want to tell him about Moose, about “bras and what goes in them,” or about God.
After this last thought, Margaret reconsiders. She would not tell Mr. Benedict that she talks to God, but she could learn more about religion and tell her teacher about that. Right there in class, she has a silent discussion with God to ask whether He would “mind” her doing a project about him. She promises to share all her thoughts, and she adds:
I think it’s time for me to decide what to be. I can’t go on being nothing forever, can I?
On Saturday, it is time for Margaret’s first trip to the Lincoln Center with Grandma. Margaret gets to take the bus to New York alone, which she has never done before. Her mother gives her detailed instructions about where to sit on the bus (alone or next to a woman), and whom to ask if she needs help (a woman, preferably one with kids). Margaret rolls her eyes over the fuss and cringes with embarrassment when her mother has a chat with the bus driver in which she refers to Margaret as “this little girl.”
As usual, Grandma behaves completely differently, as if Margaret is almost grown up. This pleases Margaret, who is careful to sit silent and attentive, like the adults around her, through the Lincoln Center performance.
After the performance, Margaret asks if she can go to temple someday. This question excites Grandma almost to tears, and she exclaims that Margaret is a real Jewish girl. Margaret says firmly that she is not Jewish; she just wants to learn about religion. This does not dampen Grandma’s happiness, and she says she will make arrangements for Margaret to go to temple on the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah.
When Margaret asks her mother about temple, her mother says, “That’s ridiculous!” Margaret protests that she has...
(The entire section is 493 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
Margaret’s parents buy her a new set of fancy clothes to wear to temple. This is okay with Margaret, although they insist that she wear white gloves, which make her hands feel sweaty. She gets the gloves dirty on the bus, so she takes them off and hides them in her purse.
At temple, Margaret watches the process of religion very carefully. She notes that an usher takes people to their seats, and that people smile at her when Grandma introduces her. She enjoys the organ music, and she thinks the rabbi’s clothes look quite similar to clothes she has seen on priests from time to time.
Margaret does not understand the words the rabbi speaks. Much of the service is conducted in Hebrew, which she does not understand. Even when the rabbi speaks English, she cannot figure out what he means. She does her best, even reading along from a prayer book when everyone else does. But the sermon is very long, and eventually she gives up trying to figure it out. Instead, she counts the hats on the people around her.
When the sermon is finished, everyone sings a song in Hebrew, and the service is over. Margaret is surprised:
I expected something else. I don’t know what exactly. A feeling, maybe. But I suppose you have to go more than once to know what it’s all about.
On the way out of the temple, Grandma takes Margaret to meet the rabbi. He shakes her hand and wishes her Happy New Year in Hebrew, laughing when she does not understand. She says she “loved” the service, and he invites her back whenever she likes. “Get to know us and God,” he says.
At home, Margaret’s parents give her “the third degree.” This time, she says the service was “okay, I guess.” Her father asks whether she learned anything, and she is at a loss. She tells him how many hats she counted, and this makes him laugh. He confesses that when he was a boy, he killed time during sermons by counting hat feathers.
Margaret’s conversation with God that evening is upbeat:
I’m really on my way now. By the end of the school year I’ll know all there is to know about religion.
By next year, Margaret hopes to know which religion to join. When she gets that figured out, she will know whether to join the Y or the Jewish Community Center, and she will not stand out so much.
(The entire section is 422 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
In November, Laura Danker wears a sweater to school for the first time. This shows off her breasts, and supposedly Mr. Benedict cannot stop staring at her. Margaret does not actually notice this, but Nancy mentions it later. As for Margaret, she is more interested in being annoyed at Freddy, who asks her why she does not look so good in a sweater.
Margaret still has a crush on Moose, whom she watches secretly whenever he cuts her lawn. She does not dare show her face in front of him anymore, not since the day he and Evan eavesdropped on the PTS meeting and overheard the girls reciting the rhyme about increasing their busts. Now Margaret stays in her room when he is around, watching him through her window. She is disappointed when she learns that lawns do not need cutting in the winter.
As the months pass, Margaret becomes good friends with Janie. Janie is a Christian, so one Sunday, Margaret attends a church service with her. To Margaret’s surprise, it is “just like temple.” The whole service is in English, but it has the same structure: pretty music, a bunch of prayers, a sermon that makes no sense. Afterward, Margaret shakes hands with the minister, who hears that she does not have a religion and looks delighted at the idea that he might convert her.
Back at home, Margaret talks to God about the church service:
I didn’t feel anything special in there God. Even though I wanted to. I’m sure it has nothing to do with you. Next time I’ll try harder.
At school, the teachers put on a square dance for the sixth-grade class. Most of the kids do not know how to square-dance, so they learn in gym. Mr. Benedict always practices dancing with Laura Danker as his partner. He says this is because she is tall enough to reach his shoulders, but Nancy thinks there is another reason. Margaret likes dancing, but the boys annoy her because they spend most of the time trying to step on the girls’ feet.
On the afternoon of the square dance, the boys and girls line up on both sides of the room to match up with partners. The girls shuffle around a lot because they are all trying to get paired with Philip Leroy, or at least to avoid dancing with whomever they hate the most.
During one dance, Margaret partners with Jay Hassler for a while. He is nice, and he does not try to step on her. Then the caller tells everyone to change partners, and...
(The entire section is 468 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
By December, the PTSes stop using their secret names when they hold meetings. Their ordinary names are less confusing. They also give up sharing their Boy Books every week. Nobody’s list ever changes. Nancy, who has the most names on her list, manages to change the order pretty regularly, but nobody else has enough names to do that. Philip Leroy stays on the top of everyone’s list, and Margaret privately wonders whether the other girls actually like him. She reflects that they might be as scared to write the truth as she is.
Some things remain constant at PTS meetings. Above all, the girls continue their fascinated and minute discussions of bodies and bodily changes. One day, Gretchen sneaks in an anatomy book from the office of her father, who is a doctor, so they can all look at pictures of a naked man and the male reproductive system. On that occasion, the PTSes meet at Margaret’s house, where they block her bedroom door with a chair for privacy. Janie asks whether Philip Leroy really looks that way naked, and everyone agrees that he probably does. Nancy, eager to one-up the others as usual, brags that she sees her brother naked all the time.
Margaret’s father subscribes to Playboy, so the other girls demand to see a copy. Margaret sneaks into her parents’ bedroom to get it, and as she does so, she wonders whether it is against the rules for her to look at Playboy. A magazine cannot be too bad if her father subscribes to it, but it has not escaped her notice that he does not leave it lying around in the living room. She decides that if she gets caught with the magazine, she will play it safe and say she wants to cut it up for a project.
Back in her room with the other girls, Margaret opens the Playboy to the centerfold. They stare at the model’s breasts, amazed at the size of them. Reading the text, they marvel at the fact that she is eighteen years old. “That’s only six more years,” Nancy says. They agree that they personally might not look like that in six years, but that Laura Danker probably will.
As for Margaret, she is not sure she wants breasts as big as the ones on the centerfold model:
If you ask me, I think there’s something wrong with her . . . . She looks out of proportion!
However, she keeps this thought to herself. At the end of the meeting, she joins the others in a...
(The entire section is 439 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
Every year, Grandma takes a cruise to the Caribbean around the holidays. She always holds a little going-away party in her cabin on the cruise ship—and this year, for the first time, Margaret’s parents give her permission to go. Her parents bring Grandma a present, a jewelry box so that she can keep her jewels safe during the trip.
Grandma seems to appreciate this gift, and she says that all her jewelry needs to stay safe for Margaret’s sake because someday it will be hers. This annoys Margaret, who does not like it when Grandma talks about dying. But Grandma has her whole death planned out, complete with instructions for her funeral and the care of her grave.
After Grandma’s boat leaves, Margaret’s mother spends a week “frantically busy” writing Christmas cards. These cards—like the family’s annual gift exchange—do not imply a belief in the religion behind Christmas. In Margaret’s words, Christmas cards are her mother’s way of keeping in contact with friends and finding out “who married whom and who had what kids and stuff like that.”
Margaret is curious about the Christmas cards, so one day when she is home sick from school, she looks through the pile of addressed envelopes. In the process, she learns “something really strange.” One of the cards is for her other grandparents, her mother’s parents. Supposedly Margaret’s mother has had no contact with these people since she married Margaret’s father. But Margaret does not ask about the card because she guesses it is supposed to be a secret.
At school, Margaret’s class is the choir for the Christmas-Hanukkah pageant, and the students spend the weeks prior to the pageant practicing a series of songs. One of the boys, Alan Gordon, refuses to sing the Christmas songs because they are against his religion. A girl, Lisa Murphy, refuses to sing the Hanukkah songs for the same reason. Mr. Benedict explains that singing the songs is not the same thing as practicing the religion, but both kids get their parents to write notes giving them permission to remain silent when they so choose.
This pageant gets Margaret thinking, and she tells God about it:
I want you to know I’m giving a lot of thought to Christmas and Hanukkah this year. I’m trying to decide if one might be special for me. I’m really thinking hard God. But so far I haven’t come up with any answers....
(The entire section is 488 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
When the pageant is over, Margaret goes home and finds a letter waiting for her. She is excited because she rarely gets mail, so she makes the process of reading it take as long as possible. She looks it over for a while before she tears open the envelope. When she sees the card, she can tell it is a party invitation, but she forces herself to wait a few minutes before she unfolds the card to see who sent it. It turns out to be a formal invitation to a dinner party. It comes from Norman Fishbein, a boy Margaret does not like—nobody does—but “a party is a party.” She immediately decides she wants to go.
Soon Margaret learns from Nancy that everyone in their whole class is invited to Norman’s party. It is a formal event, and they are all expected to wear nice party clothes. Margaret’s mother gives permission for Margaret to go but seems skeptical when she learns that the party is for twenty-eight kids. “Mrs. Fishbein must be crazy!” she says.
On the day of the party, Margaret’s mother helps her wash and curl her hair. Margaret has decided to wear her best velvet dress, and she gets her clothes ready carefully. In the afternoon, her mother sends her to her room to rest up, but Margaret does not feel tired. She closes her bedroom door and strips naked in front of the mirror. She is growing a few hairs here and there, but her breasts do not look any bigger.
God cannot make Margaret grow between now and tonight’s party, so Margaret takes matters into her own hands. She sneaks to the bathroom, heart pounding, and gets some cotton balls. On her way back to her room, she tells herself not to be nervous. There is nothing wrong with using cotton balls, at least not for normal purposes. But Margaret knows that her current purposes are a big deal.
Back in her bedroom, Margaret stuffs her bra, putting three cotton balls in each cup. She knows this is “cheating,” but she does not think it matters. A lot of girls probably do it. When she is done, she gets dressed and examines herself in the mirror. She thinks she looks better now, and she begs God to help her grow a little. She even tries to bargain with him: “I’ll clear the table for a month at least! Please God . . . .”
(The entire section is 413 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
Eventually Margaret is all ready for the party. Her parents smile a great deal as she waits for her ride to the party, but they refrain from saying “anything dumb” about their little girl growing up. Margaret laughs to herself about the stuffed bra, but she is glad her parents do not seem to notice any difference.
When she arrives at Norman Fishbein’s house, Margaret finds his fancy furniture and big rooms impressive. The party takes place in the basement, where the kids all stand around looking awkward in their best clothes. At first, the boys and girls mostly stay apart. Within a few minutes, Philip Leroy takes off his tie and jacket, and soon all the other boys follow his lead.
During dinner, a bunch of boys blow mustard at the ceiling through their straws. Later, during dessert, Freddy teases Nancy and accidentally rips off the pocket of her dress. Both of these incidents anger Mrs. Fishbein, who says she is “shocked” at everyone's “abominable behavior.” This speech gives everyone the giggles.
After dinner, the kids discuss what game they want to play. One of the boys suggests Guess Who, which involves turning off the lights and trying to guess who is who by feel. They assure the girls that they will touch each other “only above the neck,” but the girls refuse.
The next game suggested is Spin the Bottle. Philip Leroy and several others say this game is “corny,” but everyone sits down to play anyway. Several kids spin and kiss, and Margaret is relieved that they mostly kiss on the cheek. Air-kissing, however, is not allowed.
Before long, Spin the Bottle escalates to Two Minutes in the Closet. All the kids draw numbers and enter the closet to kiss in pairs. This idea makes Margaret nervous, and she wishes privately that she had practiced kissing the way Nancy does.
Still, Two Minutes in the Closet does not look too bad. Most of the kids come out of the closet quickly, before two minutes have passed. Many seem excited, but most are embarrassed. When Laura Danker gets called, she goes beet red, which surprises Margaret because Laura supposedly has a lot of experience in places like closets. When Laura comes back out of the closet, she does not seem very happy.
When it is Margaret’s turn, she gets called into the closet with Philip Leroy. She is so excited and scared that she laughs, and he tells her to stop so he can kiss her on the...
(The entire section is 511 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
On Christmas Eve, Margaret goes to church with Nancy’s family. Beforehand, Nancy promises that Margaret will not have to meet the priest. “He doesn’t even know my name,” she says. This comes as a relief to Margaret because she feels free to watch and listen as she pleases. There is no confusing sermon, either, just a lot of singing about Christmas. When she gets home, Margaret tells God about it:
I loved the choir—the songs were so beautiful. Still, I didn’t really feel you God. I’m more confused than ever . . . If only you’d give me a hint God. Which religion should I be?
Grandma returns home from her cruise, but soon she leaves again for a trip to Florida. She often calls Margaret and sends postcards, which Margaret likes, but she misses seeing Grandma in person. On the phone, they never really talk about much except to assure each other that they are fine and they miss each other.
In January, Margaret’s mother informs her that the school will be showing all the girls in Margaret’s class a movie about menstruation. Margaret rolls her eyes and says she knows all about it, but her mother tells her that the movie is important. Some girls' mothers may not have told them anything yet.
The movie, What Every Girl Should Know, is ridiculous. The narrator pronounces menstruation funny, calling it “menstroo-ation.” The PTSes spend the whole time giggling. They also notice that the movie seems to be an advertisement for a maxi pad company called Private Lady. This annoys Margaret so much that she resolves never to buy Private Lady things.
A week later, Gretchen gets her period and tells the PTSes all about it. To everyone’s surprise, the story is completely humdrum. Gretchen tells them all the details, but there is little to tell. This frustrates Nancy, who demands to know more. After some deliberation, Gretchen says that her mother keeps telling her to watch what she eats and wash her face more often, because of the changes in her body.
Nancy is disappointed by Gretchen’s story, partly because there is no more to it, and partly because she was not the first of the PTSes to start menstruating. “Well, I guess I’ll be next,” she mutters. Margaret and Janie, the two smallest girls in the class, both think that Nancy is right.
At home that evening, Margaret tells her mother...
(The entire section is 547 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
Because Grandma is away in Florida, Margaret goes to the Lincoln Center with her mother. This is not as much fun because Margaret does not get to ride the bus to New York by herself. Also, her mother thinks Margaret should pay attention to the show at the Lincoln Center, whereas Grandma shares Margaret’s interest in watching the people.
The rest of Chapter 16 consists of a series of letters between Margaret and Grandma. These letters are notable because, unlike the in-person conversations between the two characters, they have little content. Margaret mentions a few of the important parts of her life, and so does Grandma. However, both characters seem unable to share their feelings the way they do when they talk.
In the first letter, Margaret gives updates on her health, school, and the Lincoln Center performance. She mentions that she likes snow in New Jersey much better than in New York. It stays white, and there is more room to play in it.
Grandma’s reply discusses winter colds and cold-weather clothing. She says she hopes Margaret has a good doctor in New Jersey, and she adds, “There must be one or two good doctors there.” She also tells Margaret to take her boots off whenever she is indoors, even if her mother says to do otherwise.
At the end of this letter, Grandma comments that she has met a man, Mr. Binamen, whose wife died. Apparently both he and his kids think he ought to get remarried, but Grandma is too coy to say whether she has any interest in marrying him herself. Still, the fact that she mentions the topic suggests that she is thinking about it. She ends by asking whether Margaret would like to come visit Florida during spring break.
Margaret’s reply says that her parents will probably let her go to Florida during spring break. She is really excited because she has never been on a plane, and Florida sounds fun. Besides, she wants to meet Mr. Binamen and find out what he is like. “You never tell us a thing when you call!” she complains.
At the end of her letter, Margaret gives a few updates about the weather and about her family. Then she mentions the topic that has been foremost in her mind lately: “Did I tell you my friends Nancy and Gretchen got their periods?” She does not say anything about feeling left out, but the matter is probably still bothering her.
(The entire section is 414 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary
One weekend, Margaret takes a trip to New York with Nancy and her family. Evan brings Moose, whom Margaret still likes. To her disappointment, the boys avoid the girls all day. However, Margaret manages to snag a seat next to Moose at the Steak Place, where they all go for dinner.
After everyone orders, Nancy and Margaret go to the bathroom. Margaret is alarmed when Nancy locks herself in a stall and refuses to come out. “Oh no—oh no—” Nancy says, but she refuses to explain what is wrong. Margaret runs to get Mrs. Wheeler.
Mrs. Wheeler comes to the bathroom, but Nancy is too upset to open the stall door and let her in. Eventually Margaret crawls underneath and unlocks the door from the inside. Mrs. Wheeler goes in, and after a while she opens the door and gives Margaret some change to buy a maxi pad from the machine on the wall.
Margaret thinks it is strange that Nancy would react with such horror to her period. “Does she always act like that?” she asks innocently. Mrs. Wheeler explains that Nancy has never had her period before, and she is scared. This disgusts Margaret because it means Nancy lied when she said she had her period before.
A few minutes later, Mrs. Wheeler leaves the girls alone. As soon as she is gone, Nancy begs Margaret to keep the lie a secret from the other PTSes. Nancy claims she really believed she had her period before, but she made a mistake. Margaret does not believe this, but she promises not to tell the others.
The girls return to dinner, where Margaret enjoys eating next to Moose. He is left-handed, so their hands bump several times during dinner. To Margaret, getting to touch him is a big bonus. She also likes the way he smells. She reflects that he really has the top spot in her Boy Book, even if she has not said so to anyone.
That evening, Margaret tells God about her annoyance at Nancy. As badly as she wants her own body to develop, she would never stoop so low as to lie to her friends about it. In fact, she is inspired to be more mature about the subject from now on:
I will wait to find out from you if I am normal or not. If you would like to give me a sign, fine. If not, I’ll try to be patient.
However, she does request that God not let her get her period at school, because it would kill her to have to tell Mr. Benedict.
(The entire section is 435 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary
In March, Margaret has her twelfth birthday. She has long believed that people’s armpits start to stink at age twelve, but hers seem to smell fine like always. Still, at breakfast, she informs her mother that she is going to start using deodorant. Her mom laughs and agrees that this may be a good idea. She promises to buy a stick of deodorant for Margaret.
Margaret gets a lot of great birthday presents. Grandma sends her a savings bond, several homemade sweaters, a swimsuit, and a plane ticket to Florida. At school, Margaret’s friends give her a record album, and Nancy slips Margaret a separate card calling her “the best friend a girl could have.” Margaret takes this as a reference to the secret about Nancy’s lie.
Unfortunately, Margaret’s birthday takes a downturn near the end of the school day, when Mr. Benedict announces that the class is about to begin group projects about foreign countries. The students do not get to choose their own groups, which makes Margaret angry—especially when it turns out that her partners are Philip Leroy, Norman Fishbein, and Laura Danker. She dislikes Norman, and she is terrified of Laura’s bad reputation. Margaret has, in fact, managed to avoid talking to Laura until now—but the group project will make it impossible to maintain this policy of silence.
As for Philip, he is still the best-looking boy in the class, but he does not turn out to be a very nice person. As soon as the group starts its work, he sings the birthday song to Margaret—but he does not sing the real version. Instead, he sings the mean version about living in a zoo and smelling like a monkey. Then he pinches Margaret hard and says, “That’s a pinch to grow an inch. And you know where you need that inch!”
To Margaret, this teasing is absolutely unacceptable. She knows that Philip is only joking, but she is badly offended anyway. Huffily, she tells herself that she does not smell like a monkey, not now that she wears deodorant. Besides, it is none of Philip’s business that her breasts have not started to develop. She decides then and there not to like Philip anymore.
Margaret spends the rest of the day feeling cranky toward her group, and also toward Mr. Benedict for putting her in that group. She declares her birthday “pretty rotten” and ends the day feeling eager for spring break and the trip to Florida.
(The entire section is 421 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary
For three whole weeks, as long as the stupid group project lasts at school, Margaret is in an awful mood. Her group is full of annoying people, and to make matters worse, they refuse to choose a cool country, like France or Spain, for their project. They vote to write about Belgium, a country Margaret considers stupid.
For three weeks, Margaret thinks nonstop about stupid Belgium. Philip Leroy turns out to be really lazy, and he just sits around doodling instead of helping. Norman Fishbein works hard, but he is such a slow reader that he does not do his share of the work. Aside from Margaret, the only good worker is Laura Danker—but Margaret does not say so because she does not want to compliment a girl with a bad reputation.
Shortly before the project is due, Margaret and Laura stay after school one day to get some work done in the library. Margaret is surprised when Laura comments that she is planning to go straight from this homework session to confession at the Catholic church down the street. Privately, Margaret wonders whether Laura ever confesses about the stuff she does with boys.
As Margaret ponders this question, her mind wanders from her work. She begins copying from the encyclopedia instead of summarizing the text in her own words. When Laura points this out, Margaret feels embarrassed. She knows the rules about plagiarism, but she does not want someone like Laura telling her what to do.
Because of this, Margaret and Laura get into an argument. In the middle of it, Margaret repeats the stories Nancy always tells about Laura and boys. At first, Laura seems confused—but when she understands what Margaret is saying, she is furious. “You filthy liar. You little pig!” she shouts, and she storms away.
It takes Margaret a moment to absorb what has just happened. She understands that Laura’s surprise and horror were genuine, and now, Margaret realizes for the first time that she was wrong to believe such vicious rumors in the first place. The boys must have lied about Laura.
Hurriedly, Margaret runs after Laura and tries to apologize. Laura does not want to hear it. Tearfully, she says it is awful being the biggest girl in the class. Everyone laughs at her, and the boys call her dirty names—and now the girls are doing it, too.
Margaret apologizes, but the damage is done. Laura does not believe her. Hoping to make amends, Margaret speaks as...
(The entire section is 595 words.)
Chapter 20 Summary
A week later, Margaret’s mother gets a letter from her parents. When Margaret’s dad sees their names on the envelope, he freaks out. He demands to know how they even knew the address. Margaret’s mother admits she sent her parents a Christmas card, and this leads to a fight.
Margaret hates it when her parents fight. She shouts at them to stop, but they do not listen. She runs to her room and puts on loud music to drown out the noise. After a few minutes, her dad comes in and turns off the music. He says that she needs to understand what is going on, and he gives her the letter from her mother’s parents. Margaret takes it cautiously, unsure how she feels about reading the words of these other grandparents, the people who disowned their daughter just for marrying a man from a different religion.
In the letter, Margaret’s grandparents explain that they are growing old, and that they may have made a mistake when they shut their daughter out of their life. They want a chance to rebuild their ties and to meet Margaret. To this end, they are coming to New Jersey for a week's visit.
This letter disgusts Margaret, largely because it does not mention her father at all. She does not know what to say until her father mentions that they are coming on April 5th. This pleases Margaret because it means she will not have to see the other grandparents after all; their visit conflicts with her trip to see Grandma in Florida.
As soon as Margaret sees the expressions on her parents’ faces, she realizes the truth: they are not going to let her go to Florida. She will have to stay home and meet her mother’s parents. She pleads with them, but they say that she must be present for the visit.
Margaret’s mother calls Grandma and says that Margaret's trip to Florida has to be cancelled. Grandma insists on talking to Margaret, who haltingly explains what is going on. She is badly disappointed, and she bursts into tears as she talks. The only good thing about this conversation is that Grandma acts very understanding about the whole thing.
In her conversation with God that night, Margaret says that she probably deserves to be punished after being so awful to Laura. But she points out that she always tries to do what she thinks God wants, and she made only one big mistake. She begs God to change his mind and let her go to Florida after all.
(The entire section is 434 words.)
Chapter 21 Summary
For the next week, Margaret’s mother cleans constantly. Margaret is sullen and sulky, and so is her dad. The two of them take each other’s side in several arguments with Margaret’s mother.
One night at dinner, Margaret’s mother asks her family to be more understanding. She explains that she has not forgiven her parents and never will. However, she feels the need to face them, and that will be much easier if she has the support of her husband and daughter. Margaret feels grown-up to be talked to in this way. She promises to be nicer, and her dad does too.
When the day of the visit arrives, Margaret goes along with her mother to the airport. On the way, Margaret’s mother tries to explain why her parents disowned her fourteen years ago:
They did what they thought was right. Even though we know it was cruel. Their beliefs were that important to them.
At the airport, Margaret meets her grandparents and watches them hug her mother. Margaret is polite, but she tenses up and pulls away when they try to kiss her on the cheek. Her mother seems to understand and does her best to smooth over the moment.
At home, Margaret watches the stiff interactions between her grandparents and her parents. Margaret’s mother has prepared a much nicer dinner than usual, and she comments offhand that she has ordered new living room furniture. Margaret knows this is a white lie, but she does not say so.
During the evening, Margaret’s father speaks only when spoken to directly, and even then, he says only one or two words at a time. Margaret notes that he addresses his wife’s parents as Mr. and Mrs. Hutchins, and that he has to gather his patience before speaking sometimes. She realizes that this whole ordeal may be even worse for him than for her.
At one point after dinner, Margaret’s grandmother asks her about Sunday school. Surprised, Margaret says she does not go. Her parents say firmly that they do not practice any religion, and that Margaret will choose her own religion when she grows up.
The grandparents are appalled. They say religion is too important to leave up to a child, and that children should always take their mother’s religion. This, in their minds, makes Margaret a Christian. They announce that they are going to take Margaret to the nearest church, where the minister can “straighten things out.”
(The entire section is 533 words.)
Chapter 22 Summary
The following day, Margaret keeps to her room during breakfast and asks permission to leave the house in the afternoon. Margaret’s mother agrees that it would be a good idea for her to get away for a while. They make plans for Margaret to meet Janie and go to a movie.
The two girls arrive at the theater a little early, so they go to the drugstore to hang out until the show starts. They gaze curiously at the display of maxi pads, and Margaret suggests that they each buy some. She has been considering this for a while, but today is the first time that she feels brave enough to actually do it.
Janie is not so sure. She does not need pads yet, and she is scared that her parents will be mad if she buys some and they find out. But Margaret insists, adding that their parents do not need to know, and eventually Janie agrees. They each select a box of pads, but their courage flags when they realize that there is a boy manning the cash register at the front of the store. Janie wants to give up and put the pads back, but Margaret asks a saleslady for help instead. The lady just directs Margaret to the boy at the cash register, so Margaret decides to go through with it. She marches up to the counter with both boxes of pads.
Throughout the purchase, Janie smiles stiffly, looking embarrassed almost to the point of tears. Margaret handles the payment and asks for two bags. The boy does not seem at all fazed by their purchase, and she marvels, “You’d think he sold that kind of stuff every day of the week.”
At home after the movie, Margaret gloats over her purchase. She hopes that God is watching, because she is doing really well without his advice or help. She sneaks into the closet, where she opens her package and tries on a pad. She considers sleeping in it, but she decides not to on the grounds that if she died in a fire overnight, everyone would learn her secret. In the end, she hides the box of pads in a drawer.
The following day, Margaret’s grandparents announce that they are going to New York for the remainder of the week. This disappoints Margaret’s mother, but Margaret’s father seems relieved. Margaret herself considers the whole thing “a cheat” since these people ruined her vacation and then did not even stay.
(The entire section is 420 words.)
Chapter 23 Summary
Not long after the other grandparents leave, Margaret hears a knock at the door. On the doorstep she finds Grandma, her father's mother. Grandma hugs a delighted Margaret and then introduces a friend, Morris Binamen. When Grandma says his name, Mr. Binamen adds, “Rhymes with cinnamon.” This appeals to Margaret, who also likes Mr. Binamen’s moustache and black glasses. He is tan from the Florida sun, and he acts very gentlemanly.
When the introductions are over, Grandma asks Margaret where the other grandparents are. Margaret explains that they have already left, and Grandma and Mr. Binamen exchange “a secret look.” They explain that they decided to come for a visit in case Margaret needed backup.
Margaret does not understand why she would need backup until Grandma asks whether the other grandparents tried to rope Margaret into going to church. When Margaret admits they did—and that she did not go—Grandma seems triumphant. In her mind, this is proof that Margaret has taken the Jewish side in the family’s religions conflict. “Just remember, Margaret,” she says, “No matter what they said . . . you’re a Jewish girl.”
Margaret disagrees, and Grandma’s comment bugs her almost as much the other grandparents’ insistence on taking her to church. Why does everybody claim they know Margaret's religion? Why is nobody willing to take her feelings into account?
In a fit of rebellion against Grandma and everyone, Margaret insists that she is not religious: “I’m nothing, and you know it! I don’t even believe in God!” As she says this, she feels triumphant, and she privately hopes that God hears her and feels bad for not giving her more help in her attempts to choose a religion for herself.
As for Grandma, she is appalled. She begs Margaret not to say awful things about God, but Margaret insists she does not believe. This way, she can avoid being used by either side in her family’s conflict, and she can also avoid getting roped into a religion she does not understand.
All evening, the adults in the house act polite but somewhat suspicious of one another. As for Margaret, she is too annoyed to be polite. She makes a show of yawning a lot until the adults suggest she go to bed. Then she goes to her room, where she does not talk to God because she is still giving him the silent treatment. To herself, she reflects:...
(The entire section is 432 words.)
Chapter 24 Summary
At school one day, Mr. Benedict says that everyone’s special project will be due on Friday. He tells the kids that there will be no grades and that they should be totally honest about what they have learned from their work. At the end of this speech, he says he hopes everyone has accomplished “something of value.”
The night before the project is due, Margaret writes a letter to Mr. Benedict. In it, she explains that she has made “a year-long experiment in religion.” She says honestly that she set out to decide which religion she wanted to join, but she has not managed to make a choice. In fact, she is no longer sure she wants to be religious at all.
In her letter, Margaret describes everything she did for her project. She has read books about Judaism, Christianity, and Catholicism, and she attended services at church and temple. She even mentions briefly that she went to confession, but she admits that she left before speaking to the priest because she was unsure what to say.
At the end of the letter, Margaret admits that her religious experiments have been unpleasant, and that she does not feel she knows much more than she knew before the beginning of the year. It would be easier to know one’s religion from birth because a person has trouble making such a big decision for herself. She adds:
I don’t think a person can decide to be a certain religion just like that. It’s like having to choose your own name. You think about it a long time and then keep changing your mind.
On the day the projects are due, everybody except Margaret turns in a thick report with a fancy cover. She does not put her letter on the pile because she is afraid it will look like she has not done any work. Instead, she waits until everyone else leaves, and then she gives Mr. Benedict the letter. She waits while he reads it, feeling like crying but refusing to let herself do so in front of a teacher. When he is done reading, she apologizes for doing such a bad job. She flees to the girls’ bathroom and begins to sob. Mr. Benedict calls out to her through the door, but she does not answer.
Eventually Margaret sneaks away and walks home, feeling miserable. She wishes she could talk to God again, but she is too mad to admit that she misses him.
(The entire section is 418 words.)
Chapter 25 Summary
At the end of the school year, there is a big party in the gym. Margaret spends the afternoon marveling about the fact that she is going to be in seventh grade next year. She is proud of herself for being so grown-up. She only wishes her body would get the message and grow up as much as her mind has.
At the party, Margaret’s class gives Mr. Benedict a set of cuff links as a going-away present. He seems overwhelmed by the gift, and he thanks them for the teaching experience they gave him. When he adds that they gave him more experience than he bargained for, they laugh.
After the party, the four PTSes go out to lunch, where they share their worries about junior high. They have heard that junior high teachers can be strict, and that friends do not always get placed in the same classes. They are not sure how they will find their way from class to class alone.
That afternoon, Moose comes to mow Margaret’s lawn. On impulse, she runs outside to say that she is mad at him for claiming he made out with Laura Danker when he did not. He seems confused, and Margaret realizes that she had it all wrong again. It was not the boys who lied about Laura; it was Nancy. This makes sense to Margaret, who already knows that Nancy is a liar. She apologizes to Moose and runs inside feeling happy. Now that she knows he is not a liar; she can still like him.
Margaret goes to the bathroom, and when she pulls down her pants, she sees blood in her underwear. Surprised and pleased, she calls her mom and announces that she has her period. Margaret’s mom seems a little overwhelmed, but she has some maxi pads ready. She explains that she was going to put them in Margaret’s camp trunk just in case it happened over the summer.
Margaret’s mother wants to show her how to use the pad, but Margaret stops her. “Mom . . . I’ve been practicing in my room for two months!” she says. This makes Margaret’s mother laugh, and she says she will wait outside. Proudly, Margaret sticks the pad into her underwear.
That is all there is to it, and Margaret wonders whether anything will change now. Will anyone know the difference by looking at her? Will her friends treat her differently? She doubts it, but she is relieved that she is not the last one. “Now I am almost a woman!” Margaret says to herself.
This experience is enough to restore Margaret’s friendship with God. The story ends with her...
(The entire section is 475 words.)