The team behind The Edge of Seventeen has hit the adaptation jackpot. According to Deadline, filmmaker Kelly Fremon Craig and producer James L. Brooks have secured the rights to bring one of the most iconic Judy Blume titles to the big screen. Craig and Brooks find their next film in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Blume’s seminal classic in the world of young adult fiction.
This news comes only several months after Blume put out a call for opinions about potential onscreen translations of her work. So, now we have an answer to this tweet:
So which of my books, kids and/or adult would you want to see adapted for series or movie? I ask because I’m in LA meeting with many talented people. I think the time has come.
— Judy Blume (@judyblume) August 2, 2018
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is absolutely ripe for adaptation as it stands out as one of Blume’s most beloved novels. The book centers on Margaret Simon, an average sixth-grade girl who is raised without religion despite being the child of a Jewish father and Christian mother. Her family’s big move from New York City to Farbrook, New Jersey coincides with her first experiencing puberty (yes, this includes periods!), throwing the world as she knows it for a loop.
On the cusp of confronting a ton of changes in her life both bodily and mentally, Margaret makes new friends who seem worldlier than she feels, deals with a newfound interest in boys, and tries to discern exactly what she believes in — religiously speaking. While there are references within Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret that undeniably date the book’s specifics — namely mentions of belts as period products — a frank narrative featuring a young girl in the throes of coming-of-age is universal and supersedes any less consequential particularities.
The screenplay for Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, which will be penned by Fremon Craig, still needs to be completed. However, news of this adaptation alone is already exceptionally exciting regardless and per Deadline, distributors have come a-knocking.
The reason for this is a no-brainer. For years, Blume has held on to most of her literary properties with an iron grip, keeping a bulk of her influential works away from Hollywood’s adaptation cycle. In spite of her extensive bibliography that spans almost five decades of prose, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret follows just Forever…, two books in the Fudge series, and Tiger Eyes in the succession of Blume translations to date.
Moreover, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is well-loved but also notorious. Blume’s novel includes honest discussions about sex and religion that were considered profane for its young reader demographic. Starting in the 1980s, censorship began to creep up on Blume’s works, repeatedly landing Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret on the American Library Association’s top 100 lists of most frequently challenged books.
Of course, all this outrage seems especially silly in 2018. To adult me, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is simply straightforward and accommodating when it asks the big questions that often plague prepubescence. And that’s obviously more important than pearl-clutching.
Margaret is ordinary and that’s precisely why we love her. Being part of a nondescript family with practically nonexistent religious views, she functions very much as a blank slate for all manner of anxieties about her definitive place in the world. An indispensable aspect of Margaret’s journey is the fact that her rather essentialist and relatable queries about capital-L Life tend to be met with open-ended answers, too. Overall, Blume captures a frustratingly “in-between” era of her protagonist’s life with respectful integrity and love.
Therefore, it’s frankly a huge relief that Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret has landed in the laps of The Edge of Seventeen team. Although Fremon Craig’s directorial debut actually suffers from a generic premise — with IMDb summing it up thusly as “High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother” — boy, were we in for a surprise.
The Edge of Seventeen is an explosive and relatable wonder that carefully treads its difficult themes with the utmost reverence for its audience and main character. Throughout, Nadine (who is played by the incomparable Hailee Steinfeld) struggles against the unstoppable force of growing up. Yet, even as it directly portrays the character when she is most uncomfortably helpless, the film totally validates Nadine’s experiences, intense and sometimes unpretty as they are, including that of her anger and depression.
Fremon Craig successfully transforms the teen movie format once popularized by John Hughes, ages it up appropriately, and hits a resounding home run with her directorial debut. I would trust her to know how to handle Are You There God? It’s Me and all of its understandable awkwardness and complexity. The canon of women-centric films needs this movie. Plus, periods in general desperately need to be talked about more on screen, anyway.