Code Red

Code Red
Age Range
Release Date
June 13, 2023
Buy This Book
In the spirit of Judy Blume, this empowering and heartfelt middle grade novel celebrates finding yourself, making new friends, and standing up for what’s right as a girl becomes involved in menstrual activism.

Ever since a career-ending injury, former elite gymnast Eden has been feeling lost. To add insult to actual injury, her mom has been invited to present at her middle school’s career day, which would be fine except Mom’s company produces period products like pads and tampons. Having the whole school hear about it is total humiliation. And when Eden gets into a fight with a boy who won’t stop mocking her for it, she and her classmate Maribel both end up getting suspended.

Mom’s corporate executive job means she doesn’t have time to look after Eden while she’s suspended, so Eden is sent to volunteer at the food bank Maribel’s mom runs. There, she meets new friends who open her eyes to period poverty, the struggle that low-income people with periods have trying to afford menstrual products. Eden even meets a boy who gets periods. Witnessing how people fight for fair treatment inspires Eden to join the advocacy work.

But sewing pads to donate and pushing for free access to period products puts Eden at odds with her mom. Even so, Eden’s determined to hold onto the one thing that’s ignited her passion and drive since gymnastics. Can she stand her ground and make a real difference?

Editor review

1 review
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ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Eden's mother is very busy with her company, MySecret, which produces period products, but makes time to come to Eden's school for career day. Unfortunately, after her visit, some kids in her school give her a hard time. Eden is already struggling since an injury ended her gymnastics career, so when Graham gives her a hard time in the hallway, there is a tussle. Another student, Maribel, steps in. Graham falls, and ends up in urgent care with a broken wrist. Maribel's mother comes to the school to meet with the principal, but Eden's mother is in a meeting. Because of the nature of the injury, both girls are suspended. Maribel's mother takes the girls to the drop in center she runs, Casa Esperanze, and puts the girls to work until Eden's mother comes to pick her up. Eden's mother doesn't say very much, but when Eden locks herself out of the house the next day while walking her dog Blizz, she decides that Eden can't stay home alone. Soon, she's hanging out with Maribel and helping out. She meets Raven, who runs a period equity charity, and her son Will. Eden has gotten her first period and was saved by one of Raven's reusable pads, so she is interested in sewing some herself. Her mother liked to sew back in the day and is glad to share an interest with Eden, so breaks out the old sewing machine and gets her started. Eden is looking for ways to fill her time since she isn't doing gymnastics, and helps out with the play that Maribel is doing at school. When Maribel's older sister mentions some political action groups she is working with, Eden is very interested in the initiative to tax corporations so that free period products can be stocked at schools and food pantries. Her mother is NOT happy with this idea and thinks it is embarassing that Eden is actively working against her. She grounds Eden, who sneaks out anyway to participate in a flash mob to raise awareness and get volunteers to help get petitions signed. Her mother is angry, but eventually the two come to an understanding, and her mother's business even supports some of the period equity initiatives.
Good Points
Eden's growth spurt led to difficulties with gymnastics and an injury; like Maisie in Day's The Sea in Winter, Eden has lost part of her identity as well as a way to spend her time. Adults tend to forget how integral a part of tweens identiy sports can be. It was good to see Eden making new friends as she pursued new interests, but also to see how she tried to maintain a relationship with her friends from gymnastics. The portrayal of a busy mother who has procedures for meals and care and even spends some time with her daughter but also isn't emotionally present as much as her daughter wants is interesting.

This was on trend with many topics; Will is a trans boy, which leads to discussions that period products are not for girls and women, they are for "people who menstruate". Middle school students today are quite open about discussing menstruation, which is such a change from when I was growing up. There is also a lot of interest in social justice and equity, so this was an interesting look at period poverty and different initiatives to provide period products to a wider range of menstruators.

This is a great choice for readers who liked Evans' Grow Up, Tahlia Wilkins, Harrington's Revenge of the Red Club, Schneemann's and Williams' Go With the Flow or Salazar's The Moon Within or Calling the Moon: 16 Period Stories from BIPOC Authors.
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