Take 5: MG and YA Lit that Talks About Periods and Puberty
This month The Teen starts both her senior year and turns 18. That has got me all up in my feelings and I’ve been looking through a lot of pictures and telling a lot of stories. The summer before The Teen started the 6th grade I drove her to the airport and waited with her to board a planet all alone to spend the summer with her best friend. About 15 minutes before we boarded the plane she looks at me and says, I think I just started my period. So we went to the bathroom and sure enough, she had. Not just a little, but a lot. So I rushed to the airport store where I bought 4 of the biggest pads for $20.00 and quickly told reminded her what to do. As she boarded the plane all by herself I reminded her to check about half way through the flight. I then kissed her goodbye and called her best friend’s mom and ride home from the airport to tell her what had happened and asking her to please take her to the store, getting her clean clothes – seriously, I’m not kidding when I tell you that she didn’t start with some spotting but with an actual blood bath, her clothes looked like a murder scene.
And that is the story of how my first child started her period and I sent her off alone on a flight of strangers to navigate this new world all by herself. Don’t worry, we’ve laughed a lot about this story over the years and I have her permission to share this with you here. Periods are not a big deal, everyone with a uterus will have them at some point in their lives. Like many things, we believe in talking about them openly to help erase the stigma and shame of this very normal biological function.
From time to time, I will read a book that mentions menstruation and think, yes! I’m so glad they mentioned this. I will see others do the same on various social media and blogging platforms. The talk about the representation about menstruation is not new or unique, it’s such an under-represented issues that you can Google the topics and find lots of respected book bloggers and librarians talking about this topic and sharing their favorite book recommendations. We’ve even talked about it here at TLT. Today I’m going to share 5 of my favorites and then link you to a Twitter discussion chock full of MG and YA lit recommendations that talk about periods and menstruation.
Go with the Flow by Lily Williams
Go with the Flow is a graphic novel written for ages middle grade and up and it’s an excellent read. It’s unique in that the print on every page is all in red ink, with a wink wink nudge nudge to menstrual flow. But more importantly, it’s a true to life story about a group of friends all wrestling with growing up in their own ways and in their own times and yes, periods are a part of that process.
The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert
Brandy Colbert is an astounding and award winning YA author who has recently written some middle grade. The Only Black Girls in Town is Colbert’s debut middle grade novel and it tells the story of two black girls who discover a hidden journal that reveals town secrets. This is a moving book about friendship and racism that also mentions menstruation.
The Line Tender by Kate Allen
The Line Tender by Kate Allen is a story about friendship and grief. It’s a beautiful and moving book of a young girl whose mother has died and her friendship, with a young boy, is changing in part because she can’t figure out how to deal with her grief. I love this book because it talks about sharks and it’s a beautifully written journey through parental grief, but among those pages our main character starts her period without her mom and it packs a powerful punch. Many young women must navigate their monthly cycles without a mom and it is moving to see their truth acknowledged on the page. And I love that it is a male friend who helps Lucy navigate this.
Fred had opened the door when I’d knocked. I’d asked him if any of the females of the house were available. Of course they weren’t, so I marched up to the bathroom without saying a word. The linen cabinet had been stuffed with feminine hygiene supplies, a city of boxes. I’d grabbed a few of each variety and stuffed them into my shorts, saving one pad to wear home.
When I’d opened the door, Fred was standing there.
‘I got my period,’ I’d told him.
‘Oh,’ he’d said. And I was surprised by how unaffected he’d seemed, like I’d told him I’d replaced the toilet paper roll.
He’d put his hand on my shoulder, to gently move me aside and started digging in the linen cabinet.
‘What are you doing?’ I’d asked.
‘Here,’ he’d said, handing me a bottle of Midol.
‘What’s this for?’ I’d asked, though I’d seen it on TV.
‘It “relieves the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome”,’ he read from the bottle.
‘But I think I have menstrual syndrome.’ I’d said.
He shook his head and pushed the bottle into my hand. ‘I think it’s all the same.’”
Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
Jude is a Syrian refugee on her way to Cincinnati and this moving look at the life of a refugee. This is a story about a young Muslim girl trying to navigate a hole bunch of change all at once, including her changing body. And for Jude, starting her period also means that she gets to decide whether or not she will choose to wear a hijab. As a white woman raising white girls, I appreciated this beautiful, moving story about trying to find your place in the world that also allowed me to glimpse a life that is different from my own.
Though the above titles mentioned are great for middle grade readers and often talk about getting your first period, there are lots of YA books that just acknowledge that periods are a part of every day life for many teens. My favorite recent read is Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis.
Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis
McGinnis lives in rural Ohio and is one of my go to authors for realistic and moving depictions of both rural life and poverty. She also is a great author for kick ass women and nature. Be Not Far From Me includes all of these things. While camping with friends – and on her period – Ashley finds herself lost in the woods and trying to find her way home. It starts out with a casual no big deal mention that Ashley is on her period, because that’s how life is for those of us who have them, and escalates in to more when Ashley is bleeding her way alone and wandering lost in the wilderness. It’s like The Wandering Dead but without the zombies and an acknowledgement that teen girls have periods.
These are just a few of the books I’ve read recently that talks about periods and puberty. But my friends on Twitter had tons of other great recs that you can read if you follow this thread:
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
SLJ Blog Network