Are You There Buddha? by Pip Harry
Did you read Judy Blume books when you were a teen? I sure did - and I loved 'Are You there God? It's me Margaret,' which was one of the first books I'd read at the time to include frank discussion around girls and periods and body image.
This beautifully written verse novel by Pip Harry also shines a light on body image and periods and other issues that tween girls are navigating - but in this book 12-year-old Bee talks to Buddha, and instead of hanging for her period to arrive like Margaret was, Bee is begging Buddha to somehow delay her period arriving.
Bee is focussed on excelling at swimming, and periods and bras and dating boys just aren't on her radar. She's happy hanging with her best friend Leon (who just happens to be a cute surfer in Grade 8) and avoiding the mean girls at school and her swimming nemesis The Piranha.
But change is inevitable, and somehow Bee must find a way to navigate changes to her body, her friendships, and shifting family dynamics. Will she find the courage to face these challenges head on?
Bee is a wonderfully drawn character that many young readers will readily relate to. She tackles problems with resilience and humour, and many tweens will identify with her feelings of not wanting things to change. I loved Bee's character development as she grew to realise the importance of being true to herself and asserting her independence.
I loved the supporting characters in this book too - Leon is a self-aware and caring friend, and Bee's step-mum Kath turns out to be a great support - giving Bee the space she needs to draw on her inner strength and face her challenges head-on.
The writing itself is vibrant and full of energy. There's something special about verse novels, which can say so much in just a few carefully chosen words. I love the spare intimate style of telling story that verse novels allow, and Pip Harry has executed this brilliantly.
I also appreciate that this book doesn't shy away form more difficult themes like bullying, fractured families, loss, and the impact of climate change.
I devoured this book, the story is so compelling, and young readers will relate to Bee's concerns about the environment and climate change.
Published by Hachette Kids Australia