“Blubber” by Judy Blume

Revisiting Judy Blume’s Blubber, about friendship and bullying, was more than a little strange. I recalled a few things about the book: one, that it wasn’t written from the Point of View (POV) of the bullied fat girl of the title, and two, to flense is to strip the blubber off a whale carcass, and three, there was a scene in which the main characters family had to scrimp to buy her a pair of huarache sandals that then the bullied girl got too, which the original girl noticed when the bullied girl walks to the front of the class and the new huaraches squeak.

So, imagine my surprise to find no huarache scene at all. Someone on the Shelf Discovery page at Facebook suggests is was in a book called Kitty in the Middle by Judy Delton that I don’t remember reading at all.

The other two memories were correct, though. The book is written from the POV of Jill, who goes along, mostly unquestioningly, with Queen Bee Wendy and her henchgirl Caroline, with the bullying of poor Linda Fischer, who has a potato-shaped head, a grey tooth, and is overweight. Jill is best friends with Tracy Wu, who was previously bullied for being Chinese, but stood up to her tormentors. Linda, however, caves immediately.

The book is complicated, in that it has no easy answers, and Jill doesn’t get a lot of insight by the end. In other words, it’s probably very close to real life. It was painful to read, and to be reminded of those vicious middle school days, when getting kicked out of a group was painful, yet didn’t prevent me from participating in kicking someone else out. I was guilty of the sins of Jill. The friends shift except for Jill and Tracy, and this, too, I found true to life.

The lack of overt lesson about bullying is troubling to me, as a parent, yet as a writer, I admire how Blume has made a complicated book. I agree with Jennifer Weiner’s essay in Shelf Discovery about it, though, that I don’t think Blume had a lot of sympathy for Linda. She is portrayed as no more sympathetic than the Queen Bee Wendy, in my opinion.

3 Responses to ““Blubber” by Judy Blume”

  1. Natalia Says:

    I didn’t grow up in the U.S so most of the books in the list you published at the beginning of your read along, were new to me. And the ones I have read, I read as an adult. So, there is no nostalgia involved in my reading and, of course, I am reading from the perspective of an adult.
    That said, I just finished reading Blubber. As part of this challenge, I have read Starring Sally, Tiger Eyes and now Blubber, all of them by Blume. I have never read anything by her (well, maybe Freckle Juice to my girl when she was little). I like the fresh perspective of her narrators. But, it bugs me (i guess is the parent in me) her shady moral grounds. Blubber was a good story with an unsatisfactory ending. I wanted Jill to learn her lesson. And, I wanted so bad to have Linda come out of her experience with new insights. Maybe, I would not have noticed this as a child. Probably not.
    One interesting thing I have noticed in all the books I have read (plus Danny, Champion of the World) is the present of strong father figures. And, in the case of Blume’s books, the conflict of the character with their mothers. The mothers are presented, not in a bad light, but as character with failings. Fathers, on the other hand, seem to have strong bonds with their daughters and are the solid figure. It seems a big change from now, when frequently the fathers are absent or are jerks. Did you notice that?
    I have not read Shelf Discovery. My library doesn’t carry it and I didn’t want to buy it. So maybe some of this is dealt with in the book.
    Anyhow, I have written enough.Thanks for the introduction to some many American “classics”.

  2. girldetective Says:

    Natalia, I will keep an eye out for that, wonder if it was feminist backlash in the 70’s, 80’s? Glad you’re along for the read/ride!

  3. shannon Says:

    you’re right natalie - blume certainly puts her characters in conflict with their moms, and that’s exactly why i enjoyed reading her as a preteen - those characters were just like me :)