Transition from elementary school to middle school has got to be one of the hardest changes a person’s got to endure–boys and girls maturing at different rates, childhood friendships evolving or ending and new ones being formed, and new anxieties surfacing as the rules of inclusion and popularity shift. It helps if there are some understanding adults around to help students navigate the treacherous waters, but in this book the adults in charge of Fisher Middle School–meaning the head administrator, Dr. Couchman, and the Dean of Students (called Fingertip for her insistence on hemlines being no shorter than the tip of a student’s fingertips)–are not only clueless but vindictive as well, choosing to focus their main efforts on enforcing a campus dress code in an inflexible and arbitrary manner.
Girls grumble, in particular, because some escape punishment while others are given detention or sent home for the very same offense. Seems like those experiencing growth spurts and the expected physical changes that accompany the onset of periods have it the worst. Mothers have trouble keeping their daughters’ wardrobes updated to meet the hem length, midriff coverage, and tightness of clothing that get them in trouble with Couchman and Fingertrip. Girls are sent home, caused to miss important tests, forced to wear Fingertip’s ratty sweater to cover up offending wardrobe “malfunctions” and generally humiliated before the entire student body. Boys seem to be excluded from all this.
Eighth-grade girls, led by Molly Frost, finally rebel when Olivia Bonaventura is publicly humiliated by Couchman and Fingertip for wearing a tank top. Never mind that she has unexpectedly started her period, stained her new white jeans and has tied her sweatshirt around her waist to avoid notice while she goes to call her sister to bring her a change of clothing. Standing in the middle of the hallway while students pass by, she listens to Couchman and Fingertip berate her, hoping no one else notices. All the other girls–many of whom have been humiliated and punished for various other offenses–sympathize with her, but one boy who is a perennial jerk nicknames her “Tampon Fail” and–to her mortification–the tag sticks.
Molly is outraged, as are the other girls, and starts DRESS CODED: A Podcast, inviting girls who have endured similar treatment from school administrators to step forward to be interviewed. The podcast quickly becomes a hit among current and former students, and students move to act on the issue.
This is a fine little primer on political activism for those of any age who find themselves powerless in the face of unfair discrimination. Students of all types and genders–even the school jerk–are treated by the author with compassion and understanding. There are no language, sex or violence issues in this book. There is a situation with substance abuse that has positive resolution (Molly’s older brother is addicted to vaping and illegally supplies vape pods to other students.).
Buy this one for your library.
Categories: Addiction, Body Acceptance, Books We Recommend, Books with No Objectionable Content, Bullying, Civil Rights, Controversial YA Topics, Differently Abled, Diversity, Dysfunctional Relationships, LGBTQIA, Navigating through Middle School, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Political Activism, Social Media