Tuesday, February 10, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Blubber by Judy Blume


This is a book review for Blubber by Judy Blume. I read this book as part of my Banned Book Challenge hosted by Buckling Bookshelves

Blubber is a good name for her, the note from Wendy says about Linda. Jill crumples it up and leaves it on the corner of her desk. She doesn't want to think about Linda or her dumb report on the whale just now. Jill wants to think about Halloween. But Robby grabs the note, and before Linda stops talking it has gone halfway around the room. That's where it all starts. There's something about Linda that makes a lot of kids in her fifth-grade class want to see how far they can go -- but nobody, least of all Jill, expects the fun to end where it does.

I remember loving this book as a child. I think the last time I read it was in junior high. When I was younger, my mom did not try to censor what I read in any way. I read Judy Blume books, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High, and more than my fair share of romance novels. I remember one day when my mom saw I was reading this book. She asked me, "Hey, I heard this book may have some bad stuff in it. Does it?" I was genuinely perplexed because I saw nothing wrong with the book. I replied, "No it doesn't. I really like the book." And that was that. I was lucky that my mom trusted me and my taste in reading material. She wasn't going to censor me just because others said there may be questionable material in it.

Reading this as an adult was an eye-opening experience. The bullying in this book was disturbing and appalling. The instances of bullying in this book went way beyond name calling. The scene in the bathroom where three girls tried to strip Linda was the most disturbing. What was even more appalling was that as a child, I saw nothing wrong with it. I was bullied a bit at school and I never told anyone, not a teacher, not my parents, no one. Maybe when I was reading it, I just took for granted that this stuff happened. I think the worst part about this book was that the ending was so open-ended. The ringleader of the bullies, Wendy, never got in trouble or learned her lesson. Jill never learned her lesson about giving into peer pressure or about how much pain bullying could cause. Even when the tables were turned and Jill was the one being bullied, she still blamed Linda. She thought that if Linda had only laughed everything off instead of showing how much the bullying hurt, then no one would have picked on her. I felt so sorry for Linda and I really disliked the main character. This was not one of Judy Blume's better books. That being said, if I had kids I would still not prevent them from reading this book. I really think kids and young adults should be able to read the books they want to and form their own opinions. I would also like to think that my children would not become bullies simply from this book. It just doesn't work that way.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: As much as I hate to say it, I would say skip it. There just aren't many redeeming qualities about this book. Judy Blume's other books are so much better.

21 comments :

  1. I remember this book! I was such a Judy Blume fan growing up. Love that it was read for Banned Books!

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  2. I remember this book when I was growing up - I think these things are viewed differently when viewed from an adult perspective, perhaps why adults shouldn't censor books for children? Great post even if you would skip it.

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    1. Thanks Cleo! You are so right about that. As a child, I may have liked the book but I still didn't become a bully because of it. And even though I didn't like this one, I hate that it is banned. Kids should get to read whatever books they want and form their own impressions.

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  3. I haven't read this book but I wouldn't stop young people reading it - although it would be good to talk about and tease out the issues in it for young readers. I think young people are savvy enough to form their own opinions these days and wouldn't become bullies because of it.

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    1. You are so very right Kathryn. If my child chose to read this book, I would use it as a jumping off point for some very important conversations.

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  4. I have never read a book by this author but I am curious about this. Sad that there were no consequences for the bullies though, that makes me sad.

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    1. Oh you should really read some of her books Kindlemom! Of course they were meant for younger kids but still . . . Are you there God? It's Me Margaret is a great one. And yeah, I was not super fond of this ending. Ha

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  5. Oh wow this sounds like a very raw book and an important one, too. I think censoring only puts kids in an unrealistic bubble, and I'm glad there are books out there that can maybe help kids in this situation you know! Giving them hope is all some might need! Though sadly it sounds like this might not be one I would give my teenage kid O_O I think he bullies not getting any consequence is terrible!I have never read a Judy Blume book but I def need to give one a try!

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    1. Thanks Giselle! You definitely need to read Judy Blume. This is not one of the best, but most of her books are great.

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  6. I read this in like the 4th grade and oh lord don't even ask me how many years ago. It was sad what occurred. I am not sure what opinion i would have now. I do know back then I read all of her books.

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    1. Yes, I read all of her books as a child too Kimba. It is interesting to read these books again as an adult. I am interested to read some of her other stuff too just to see if I would love them just as much.

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  7. This book sounds familiar and I am pretty sure I read it but for some reason, I cannot remember at all :/ I have read other books by her and have liked them so far :)

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    1. Her other books are all really good, from what I remember. I think it's interesting to read them again as an adult to see if your views change at all.

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  8. Wow, great review! I haven't read Blubber. I think I'll be skipping it.

    I actually just finished reading mt very first Judy Blume novel as an adult!! I read Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and I enjoyed it a lot.

    Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret has also been challenged as well. I read this book for the 2015 Banned Book Challenge.

    Happy reading!!

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    1. Thank you! I read Are you there God? a long time ago, but I loved that book. I am so glad you enjoyed your first Judy Blume book! I may need to reread that one as well. :)

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  9. I don't agree with your advice to skip it. Rather, I'd bear in mind that it was not written with an adult audience in mind. You as an adult find the bullying upsetting, but sadly, that's not how kids who witness and participate in bullying feel when they're watching it and doing it.

    I also think it works better as a story that Judy Blume did not embrace the "Jill suddenly realizes that bullying Linda is wrong, she stops bullying Linda and embraces her as a best friend, and Wendy and the other bullies go down" approach. Many kids (remember, that's who Judy Blume writes for and about) would be turned off by that approach because it isn't true to their lives and experiences and would probably have come off as too preachy.

    What Judy Blume did in this novel is to address kids who find themselves in Jill's position: Do I join in the bullying or not? Jill has fun temporarily bullying Linda, but when she finds out that she too can be the victim of bullying, she starts to change. At the end of the novel, while nobody is directly punished for bullying Linda, Jill realizes that she needs to be more tolerant of people and expand her own circle of friendship. And those are important lessons for any kid to learn. Sure, she could have had adults come down harder on the kids, particularly Wendy, but sadly, that doesn't happen often enough in real life that her kid audience would be able to relate to that.

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    1. KeenReader, thank you so much for your comments. I do agree with you. When I said skip it, I think I was talking more about the adult side of me than the kid side. If my child wanted to read this, I would not stop them and I would use it to start a conversation about bullying. And I do agree that an ending where everything worked out and everyone lived happily ever after would not have been realistic. The ending that Judy Blume wrote did make a lot of sense. Thanks again for your comments!

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    2. You're welcome! I've read this book as a kid and as an adult, and I still consider it one of the best books out there that deals with bullying. I was bullied as a kid and a bystander-bully as well (that is, I was Jill although I was never Wendy) and I know from personal experience that it's terrible to be bullied. I think Judy Blume realizes that too.

      But I don't think there is any way to write about bullying without someone suggesting that the author is "teaching kids bullying techniques" or for it not to be disturbing. Trying to sanitize kids' or YA books like that just don't work. Kids learn bullying techniques regardless of whether they are in books, and they are going to be disturbing no matter what.

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  10. I just finished reading this book to my 9 year old and I'm just appalled at open ending, the ending where the main character finally feels right about her life after being on the receiving end of the bullying, and then....she still treats Linda horribly by refusing to sit with her and still calling her blubber (in her mind, but still!!!)
    What is this teaching our kids?
    The type of bullying Linda endured was so awful. Mental, emotional, physical, sexual! And guess what? we don't have to change it because we should only worry about not being bullied.
    It allowed me to have an open conversation with my child to determine how she felt about it, and that was positive

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    1. Kristyn, I don't have kids but I completely agree. And honestly, I think there are much better books dealing with bullying out there. I am really glad that this book was able to lead you to have an open conversation with your child. I love when books are thought provoking like that. I still think this is not one of her better books, but I do think there can be a little merit in reading it.

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