Judy (Sussman Kitchens) Blume Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Judy (Sussman Kitchens) Blume 1938–

American novelist.

Blume is one of the most popular and controversial authors writing for young adults. She is known for her frank portrayal of the physical and emotional maturation of adolescents. Some adults consider her novels inappropriate for young readers. They object to Blume's treatment of such topics as menstruation, masturbation, and teenage sexuality. A number of critics have faulted her novels for lacking depth, and some have accused her of trivializing the problems and even the lives of teenagers. On the other hand, many critics praise Blume's ability to recreate the colloquial speech of young adults and commend her portrayal of adolescents who come to terms with their changing lives.

Blume first gained recognition with Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret (1970). This novel has two themes: Margaret's preoccupation with the physical signs of puberty, and her search for religious identity. Blume won acclaim for her warmly humorous treatment of female concerns, although several critics considered her depiction of Margaret's bodily changes overly graphic. Forever … (1976), with its detailed description of a first sexual encounter, was even more controversial. While some readers and critics have complained about the sexual content of Blume's novels, others praise her emphasis on individual responsibility in sexual matters.

Tiger Eyes (1981) is in some ways atypical of Blume's young adult novels. Sexual themes, which often preoccupy her protagonists, are deemphasized in this book in favor of examining the effects of death and senseless violence. Some critics consider this novel her most accomplished work. As with Blume's other young adult novels, Tiger Eyes has been praised for its effective blending of sophisticated themes and maturing characters.

Blume has remarked that she vividly remembers her own questions and emotions as a young person and she attempts to show readers that they are not alone in their fears and confusion. Her books are often set in suburbia, reflecting her own East Coast, middle-class background. Part of Blume's appeal, according to some critics, stems from her refusal to moralize as she emphasizes the need for individual and social responsibility. Several of her works have received regional book awards.

(See also CLC, Vol. 12; Children's Literature Review, Vol. 2; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 29-32, rev. ed.; and Something about the Author, Vols. 2, 31.)