Review Detail

Kids Fiction 120
Frank discussion for a different generation
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Riley is an investigative reporter for her very realistic and small school newspaper. She loves to write and wants to make the world a better place by shining light on misinformation and injustice. She is also, along with her friend Cee, instrumental in keeping the Red Club going at her school. A group of girls who have reached puberty meet once a week in the library, and have an emergency locker with sweatpants and sanitary supplies that anyone who needs them can use. The girls ask each other questions and support each other, as well as any girl who might need help. Riley's mother and grandmother are much more traditional, so she doesn't get the information or support she needs at home. When Riley's mother comes home from a school committee meeting and tells her that there will be some changes at school, Riley is still surprised at the changes. The school dress code is now enforced, and leggings are no longer involved. The newspaper advisor, Ms. Bhatt, is replaced by Principal Pickford, all future issues are put on hold. Not only that, but the Red Club is forbidden to meet. Riley thinks her mother, or possibly the mother of a new girl, might be behind it, and she knows that Brody Scruggs' mother has complained that he can' concentrate because of the way the girls dress. Angered by these changes, Riley gathers her friends to effect some changes. They decide to shed light on the issues facing girls, and plan several protests. Girls carry tampons openly in the hallways on one day, talk openly about menstruation on another, and everyone is supposed to wear leggings on another day. Cole, another newspaper reporter, is very supportive of Riley and her endeavors, and offers to carry a tampon and even wears leggings, along with several other boys. There is also a large "art" installation of various pads that the girls put up in the gym, and even though it is taken down quickly, people hear about it. In the end, the girls' open insistence that their needs are heard and met gets a positive response, and the culture of the school slowly changes.
Good Points
Strengths: Riley's actions were all realistic, reasonable, and well though out. Harrington clearly investigated how schools work in order to write this book. While my school no longer feels we can address any clothing choices, I know that many schools do have stringent requirements about short length, strap width, etc., and they are almost exclusively aimed at what girls wear. The characters are especially well-drawn; they are multidimensional and well meaning, even if Riley disagrees with them, and there are some fun twists with Principal Pickford and the formal, white haired Miss Nancy. Riley's relationship with Cole was especially charming, and I loved that she was willing to pass on hanging out with him at the dance in order to support a girl who was dress coded at the dance... wearing the same dress Riley was wearing, but "filling it out" differently. It was good that Riley had Ms. Bhatt and Cee's mother to support her in ways her own mother didn't. This moves along quite briskly and doesn't let the political message slow down the story.

While I found this a little uncomfortable, and would have been mortified by it as a middle school student, but it was ultimately compelling. If students can read it, perhaps they will live differently and be better able to support others than I am. Students today are much more open about all manner of topics. There are a growing number of books out there that frankly address menstruation, such as Williams' graphic novel Go With the Flow and the nonfiction book by Stynes, Welcome to Your Period, and Revenge of the Red Club is a solid middle grade story of empowerment and awareness.
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