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Karen Schneemann

Guest Post on the 2021 YASF Tournament of Books

As the Head of Teen Services at my library, I attend a networking group with other librarians who work with teens in the Chicagoland suburb area. For several years the YASF (Young Adult Services Forum) group has had a yearly Tournament of Books for YA novels from the previous year, and this is my fifth year participating by writing reviews for their blog So like YA know

This year I was assigned graphic novels Flamer by Mike Curato and Go With The Flow by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann. Both books were excellent and dealt with issues facing teens today. Make sure you read my original reviews, as the YASF review was edited considerably for length. Click here to find out which book I chose and WHY!

-Nancy

Go With The Flow

A friendship story. Period.

Go With The Flow is an empowering book about friendship, pushing back against injustice, and yes, menstrual periods. The story revolves around four sophomores- Abby, Britt, Christine and new student Sasha. When Sasha unexpectedly has her first period at school and leaks through her pants to her horror, the other three girls take her under their wing and help her get a pad and a change of clothes. While in the bathroom they discover the pad dispenser is empty, as usual, which angers them. But their kindness leads to a friendship with Sasha and soon their trio is now a quartet.

The narrative takes place over a school year, as the four girls navigate school, crushes, bullying and of course their changing bodies. Abby, in particular, takes it upon herself to object that the school administration doesn’t prioritize women’s health and access to sanitary supplies, while they always find the money for the football team. She steps up her protest by staging provocative art about periods in the building that gets everyone’s attention, yet puts her friendships at risk. Abby is later able to achieve a broader audience with a blog post that goes viral and is able to raise money that will go to schools to help with providing access to supplies to students.

What I appreciated was the varied home experiences of the girls. While two girls come from two-parent homes, one lives with her single mom, and another with her Grandma. One girl is questioning her sexuality, while another faces an unknown medical future as she possibly suffers from endometritis. When Sasha’s mother finds out she had her period, she doesn’t offer her any advice, she just silently hands her supplies with no guidance on how to use tampons. This is true to life for some girls who gain their knowledge through their peers and now a book like this. Not all the narrative threads are tied up, but I found that refreshing, for we are only looking at a window of time in their life.

The illustration were cute and anime-like and will appeal to a middle school audience. Each page had typically three to five panels and they flowed well, but there was enough variety with splash pages and some blog entries to mix it up a bit.  Appropriately, the color palette is red. The art will remind you of Raina Telgemeier’s, which is praise indeed.

I applaud the author and illustrator, Williams and Schneemann, for taking a taboo subject and making it completely relatable. This is a perfect book to put in the hands of preteens, for it can serve as a primer for what to expect. This sweet tale about bodies, friendship and activism is a winner.

-Nancy

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