Welcome to my Judy Blume in July series! I realize I am reviewing my July readings in August. However, I devoted July to reading some classic Judy Blume novels, along with her newest book In the Unlikely Event, which I will review here as well (eventually).
The book: Blubber
My rating as a kid: 4 stars
My rating as an adult: 1-2 stars
Whoa boy. This is a tough one. Judy Blume did pre-teen kids, especially girls, a great service by writing this classic book about bullying. I commend her for it. I used to think all kids should read it. But now, I’m just not sure. This book disturbed me! I thought Wendy the bully was borderline psychotic. She needed professional help. The bullying described in this book went beyond (way beyond) mere taunts and some shoving. The name calling and public shaming of Linda, recipient of abuse, is hard enough but the girls force her to eat food, try to pull down her underpants, shove her in a closet, and pretty much guarantee some PTSD in her future. I don’t want to make light of any of this- I found the novel extremely difficult to read with any sort of enjoyment what-so-ever.
The lesson of the story is “What goes around, comes around”, as Jill, the protagonist, experiences in the latter half of the book. But does she ever learn her lesson? Jill takes no steps to extend any sort of compassion towards Linda after she herself receives the onslaught of Wendy’s wrath. Judy adds in an afterword on the copy I read that she wrote this to remind kids to speak up when they see horrible acts of bullying. However, this theme is treated so lightly in the book that I’m not sure it will resonate with kids. Was Rochelle speaking up on behalf of Linda, or merely participating in the abuse? Linda, shoved in a closet and on “trial” for being fat (I suppose), gets a nod from Rochelle who suggests Linda should have a lawyer in order to make her trial fair. Is this really speaking up?
All of Judy’s points are valid, but I honestly finished this book with a bad taste in my mouth. Where were the parents and teachers??!!! How come they noticed NONE of this teasing and bullying going on? At what point does it become an adult’s responsibility- teacher or parent- to step in?
Sadly, this book was published BEFORE the Columbine school shootings, which means many of those students probably read it at some point in their youth. It makes me so angry that this level of bullying still exists and in most cases, we learn nothing from it.
- The music teacher would absolutely get fired in this day and age for pinching students. Seriously, that was allowed in schools?
- How come these kids had to eat lunch inside a classroom? And without any supervision?
- Jill’s mom worked with computers, in the 70s. Judy always tries to be as progressive as possible!