Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Jenn Bishop

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as thirty-three authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!


About Jenn Bishop

Jenn Bishop lives in Cincinnati, OH, and is a proud graduate of VCFA’s MFA program in writing for children and young adults. Though she writes for tween readers, she was formerly a teen librarian. Her first middle grade novel, The Distance To Home, is now available in paperback. It is highly possible that she posts too many Instagram picture of her cat.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagramGoodreads

“I must — I must — I must increase my bust.”

As I recently re-read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, these were the lines that truly brought me back to my pre-teen self, reading this book for the very first time. I devoured Judy Blume as a kid — I doubt there’s a title my public library owned that I didn’t read — but it’s Margaret who has stuck with me the longest. (Okay, I will likely also forever remember Fudge for swallowing a turtle in Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing.)

So much of sixth-grader Margaret Simon’s experience felt far from removed my world, a small town of eight thousand in central Massachusetts. Even though she had just moved to suburban New Jersey, Margaret had come there from New York City — Manhattan! — a place where I’d only been a tourist. Margaret was an only child while I had a brother four years younger who seemed to exist for the sole purpose of embarrassing me. Plus she was raised without religion — the aftermath of an interfaith marriage unapproved by the in-laws — whereas I’d been raised Catholic.

By all accounts, we had hardly anything in common on the outside. But the inside was a different story.

And inside was what mattered when you were twelve. Suddenly, your body felt like a ticking time bomb, a mystery even to you. You learned that hair would grow in new places, that your breasts would (supposedly) get bigger, and then there were periods!

Now, it’s not that my parents were total prudes, but I was their firstborn and as I approached puberty, they were…let’s just say hesitant to talk about the subject. The “S” volume in our encyclopedia set mysteriously disappeared and when they gave me a book on the subject, it was a 32-page Joanna Cole softcover — essentially a first grade treatment of the subject. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Of course I must have talked to my friends about this stuff but, to be honest, I think I went where I felt most safe to explore. Books. Though there were some in the library whose covers completely gave away their content — ahem, It’s Perfectly Normal — others were more coded. Certainly it was no secret to my mom why I was checking out Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Though much had changed since Margaret’s story, first published in 1970, and my coming of age in the mid-nineties (i.e. no one was buying the hilariously-named Teenage Softies at CVS), so much stayed the same. Margaret’s biggest questions — will I be the last among my group of friends to get my period, will my chest ever fill out, and the all-encompassing, am I normal? — echoed my own. Heck, I’m still wondering about the last two!

At first a window in some ways, Margaret became a mirror for me. And given how many different covers exist for the paperback of this book, now in its fifth decade in print, I think it’s fair to say she’s been a mirror and window for countless girls over the decades. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d have to sadly report back to her tween self to say the book’s bust-increasing exercises have failed to yield an increase.

Title 14 Hollow Road
Author Jenn Bishop
Pages 288 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Published June 13th, 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

A warm coming-of-age novel about a community banding together in the wake of a tornado, perfect for fans of reader favorites like Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Lost In The Sun by Lisa Graff.

The night of the sixth-grade dance is supposed to be perfect for Maddie: she’ll wear her perfect new dress, hit the dance floor with her friends, and her crush, Avery, will ask her to dance. But as the first slow song starts to play, her plans crumble. Avery asks someone else to dance instead – and then the power goes out.

Huddled in the gym, Maddie and her friends are stunned to hear that a tornado has ripped through the other side of town, destroying both Maddie’s and Avery’s homes.

Kind neighbors open up their home to Maddie’s and Avery’s families, which both excites and horrifies Maddie. Sharing the same house…with Avery? For the entire summer? While it buys her some time to prove that Avery made the wrong choice at the dance, it also means he’ll be there to witness her morning breath and her annoying little brother.

At the dance, all she wanted was to be more grown-up. Now that she has no choice, is she really ready for it?

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