Go with the Flow

First Second. Jan. 2020. 336p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781250305725; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781250143174.
Gr 4-8–When new student Sasha gets her period, best friends Abby, Brit, and Christine shepherd her to the bathroom—only to find that their school doesn’t stock bathroom hygiene dispensers. The principal cites budget cuts, but the school can still afford new football uniforms. Incensed at the double standard, the teens decide that tampons and pads should be freely available at school. They work to convince others and to decrease the stigma around menstruation. Well-meaning but impassioned Abby gets carried away, making a bold statement that embarrasses the other girls, lands them all in trouble, and threatens their friendship. Originally a webcomic, this graphic novel is enlightening, though characterization and dialogue are at times forced. Information on historical attitudes toward menstruation is woven into the narrative through the girls’ conversations and Abby’s opinionated blog posts. Readers eager to learn more will be richly rewarded by the back matter, which offers further resources, tips on getting involved with period activism, and a brief primer on period normalcy and pain. The characters are diverse in terms of ethnicity and sexuality, and though all four main characters appear to be cisgender, with one girl exhibiting romantic interest in her female friend, there are numerous references to transgender men and nonbinary experiences. While the characters are high school students, rounded, simple lines create a younger appearance. Fittingly, various shades of red, often speckled in a crayon-like fashion, provide the only color throughout the story.
VERDICT This warm, candid friendship story isn’t shy about the message it’s trying to send—that periods need not be a dirty secret. Pair it with nonfiction memoir companions by Shannon Hale and Raina Telgemeier.

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