Periods in YA: Should We Mention Menstruation?

Discussion Post

Recently I’ve been seeing some mentions around the blogosphere about periods in young adult literature and whether menstruation is something authors need to build more into their stories.  I haven’t seen any posts yet (and when I Googled the topic, the posts were generally from last year), so if you’ve written something on this topic more recently, please link me up in the comments.  However, just the casual references to the topic got me thinking about whether periods in YA is something I even care about.

While I believe there would be benefits to bringing up menstruation more often in young adult books in general, I have to admit that it’s a hard sell when I think about whether adding a character’s period to any particular book would be an improvement. I have never read a book and thought “Wow, this is great. The only thing that would make this book better is if the author had talked about the main character having her period.”  If I can’t point to a specific book and make an argument for why adding a period would add something special and essential  to the story or to character development, I’m not sure I have any place to tell authors to add it.  Still, I think there are good reasons authors might consider it.

Periods Aren’t “one Size Fits All”

Readers typically give a pass to books for failing to represent everyday activities.  We don’t generally ask authors to talk about characters brushing their teeth or using the toilet, and menstruation seems to be thrown into this general category of essential yet unremarkable life activities.  The problem is that menstruation is not always “routine.”  Women experience extremely different types of periods, and dealing with menstruating can play a huge role in someone’s life.  Failing to represent menstruation in literature implies there’s nothing to be said because readers implicitly understand how a character’s period must be going for her–yet nothing could be farther from the truth.

Though we live in an age where teens can do a Google search for anything, and easily find articles and studies and blog posts about periods and how other women experience or cope with them, there’s still a place in literature to address what is undeniably an important part of many women’s lives. There’s room for books to explore how different periods can be and help teens readers come to terms with their own.  When a book doesn’t mention a character’s period, it’s an implication that the period is not problematic.  The character didn’t have trouble finding a tampon.  She didn’t embarrass herself by bleeding on something.  She didn’t feel nauseous or have cramps so bad she couldn’t leave her bed for two days.  Such a uniform portrayal of invisible, barely-inconvenient periods can seem baffling to the large number of women who do experience pain or other issues with their periods.  It can make readers feel very alone.

Beyond expanding representation of periods so young women can see themselves mirrored in characters’ experiences, talking more about this issue can also help readers understand other people’s periods.  And what is reading about if not helping us learn more about other people and increase our understanding of the world?  This may sound ridiculous, but many people do not know as much about periods as they think they do.  Many women assume that other women’s periods are exactly like their own.  These attitudes can be damaging.  For instance, I recently had an argument with a thirty year old man who thought tampons/pads should not be available in public restrooms–because he believed that periods are so cyclical a woman can predict the exact day it starts, and of course it starts in the morning exactly when she wakes up.  He believed there was no way a woman could be “surprised” by her period, so if she left the house without the proper supplies in her purse, she was just irresponsible.  I have also argued with women (one’s a YA author, interestingly) who insist that, because their own periods are painless, any woman who has to miss work because of the pain is an attention-seeking liar trying to get out of doing her job.  Although it’s not necessarily the “job” of YA books to educate people or give them the sex ed they missed, I do believe that representing various characters’ experiences with their periods can only be beneficial in increasing readers’ understanding of how women can experience menstruation.

Conclusion

Young adult books, in addition to simply telling a good story, seek to help teens navigate the world and common issues they might face.  Ignoring a process that affects most women every month is a significant oversight.  Although I may not be able to point to a particular YA book and say “This would be better if the protagonist had her period,” I can look at YA as a whole say “It feels so frustrating that all these books gloss over something that has such a large impact on my life.”  Women think about their periods.  Even if a woman has a relatively easy and light one, its presence still influences the decisions she has to make on any given day she has it.  What will she wear?  How will she get her tampons into the bathroom without waving a banner that says “Hi, I’m bleeding?”  Will she go to that pool party, or pass?  How will deal with the advances of her boyfriend?  Will she even go to school or work today, or are the cramps too bad?  When books are trying to address the real world issues teens face on a daily basis, it seems reasonable to expect that at least some of them will deal with periods.

 

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65 thoughts on “Periods in YA: Should We Mention Menstruation?

  1. luvtoread says:

    Very interesting post! I remember reading a book when I was a young girl, before I had started my period, and it was a Sweet Valley Twins book where one of the twins gets her period and the other hasn’t started yet. Since this was the first I had ever read of someone my age going through this life event, I was really impacted by this book and it helped things not be so scary for me. And helped remind me that everyone is different and periods start at different times. So yes, I feel that for young readers who may be experiencing things like periods for the first time, or bleeding through clothes, etc the topic is important. I know it helped me.
    I think that particular book may be the only book I’ve ever read where menstruation actually plays a role in the plot. Because one sister starts before the other, the one who hadn’t started yet feels she needs to act more mature and starts hanging out with a bad crowd, etc.
    Excellent post and it really brings up an interesting topic of conversation.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Briana says:

      I think there is a small segment of contemporary upper middle grade/lower YA that takes talking about periods seriously, especially the first one. I’d love to see discussion of it carry over. Like, if it’s not your first period, it doesn’t matter or affect you anymore? I also agree periods in literature can be really impactful for readers. While it’s true you can find information on whatever you want online, it’s always nice to to see real life experiences in literature, especially if it might not even occur to you to Google it in the first place.

      Liked by 1 person

      • luvtoread says:

        Plus girls could be shy about using Google to look stuff up, or not even know what to search for, and they also may not have a female adult that they can talk to about things. Since it is a fact of life for women, it really is amazing that it isn’t mentioned more. And it doesn’t have to be the entire book, just a mention here and there. I think most authors are afraid of it, or just flat out don’t want to discuss it.
        If I remember correctly, there was a mention in the first Throne of Glass book, about how Celaena was wracked with cramps, but I don’t recall any other mention in any of the other books in that series, which now that I think about is kind of odd. If her cramps were so terrible to sideline her once, one would think they would occur again.
        And also A Song of Ice and Fire mentions Sansa’s first period, since now that meant she could be married off. But these are brief mentions and don’t ever state how these characters deal with it on a monthly basis. I’d love to know what those characters do about their periods, especially in a historical setting. It would bring just a touch of reality into the story.
        And this isn’t YA, but the book Wild does mention what Cheryl Strayed used while hiking the PCT, and that was fascinating.

        Like

  2. NeverSeenANevergreen says:

    To add to your thoughts further, how many stories mention the main character needing to pee? like 90% of people would need to go in the middle of the maiin action scene, lets be real. It’s one of the reasons I love Tamora Pierce’s books so much because her characters will just end a (smaller) battle scene and the main character will think “oh I need to find some bushes before we continue on with the march” or whatever. Her characters also have periods, sometimes it’s talked about (the first one being a shock) and sometimes it’s as simple as ‘i need to be sure to pack the right supplies since I’m going to be in the middle of no where for 5 weeks and I just started my period”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      I remember reading a book sent to me for review, Spirits of Glory, where the protagonist consistently planned out how she was going to pee on her adventures, and it was seriously one of the most relatable things I have ever read. While I don’t need every book to do that, or to mention it so frequently, it was really so surprisingly refreshing and appreciated.

      I was thinking of Tamora Pierce while writing this post, but couldn’t think of any other books I’d read where someone had her period! I totally agree with you. I don’t think periods necessarily need to be the focus or a “big deal” in the book, but if you’re doing something like enumerating all the supplies someone is packing for a trip, you can definitely just casually mention tampons as a realistic addition!

      Liked by 1 person

      • NeverSeenANevergreen says:

        Exactly! Also I don’t think I have really ever read another book that talked about this sort of thing, and maybe one other that actually had the main character pee on-page. It’s a normal body thing and pretending it does not exist is a disservice to woman AND men.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. overstuffedbook says:

    I love when authors slip in everyday occurrences into their books. Going to the bathroom and mentions of menstruation even get some of my Bonus Points at times. I don’t expect authors to tell us every time their characters go to the bathroom, or even expect them to include it if it isn’t important to the story. But like you said, menstruation is a big part of women’s lives, especially teen women’s lives. And it definitely seems that there needs to be more information out there, since obviously many people don’t realize how drastically different one period can be from the next. I think authors should put it in if they think it will add to their story, and I think that with YA books, it could very well do just that. Great discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      Right! I think when people envision “adding a period to a book” they might automatically translate that to “writing a huge scene about a period,” when it could really just be a casual mention. And, yeah, you don’t have to mention it every single time the character experiences it, just enough to acknowledge the existence of the event.

      Also, yes! I think one of the arguments for not including periods in books is basically that “Well, it’s like brushing your teeth. It’s boring. There’s nothing to say.” But many women do not experience their periods as boring and uneventful at all. It can be extremely painful and disruptive to their everyday activities. Many women probably wish there was nothing out of the ordinary to say about their periods!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. paperjasmine says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post. You are absolutely right that YA shoulders include periods as part of the characters life, because no it’s not the same every day activity for everyone and it is a topic that a lot of people take for granted as being the same for everyone. While, as you said, Ive never thought ‘oh it would’ve been a better story if periods had been included’ but there have been so many YA’s where I’ve wondered ‘does this girl ever get her period?’ or ‘how is she doing that, what does she do about her period?’ (the latter is usually in more fantasy/paranormal/sci-fi YA). And I have to say, whenever a character in a YA does talk about their period, I am always generally happy about it. Or feel more connected to the character, especially when they also have super painful or annoyingly irregular periods like I do. So, while I’ll probably never give a novel a lower rate if they don’t include some mention of periods and the issues they cause for so many women every day, I’d be super happy to see more of it represented in YA in a way that’s realistic and relatable.
    Again, great post!! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      Exactly! There are days it can feel really lonely to think that none of these kickass heroines seem to have periods, particularly not painful or disruptive ones. What would they do? Hide from the villain for a week and hope for the best? Do only people with easy periods get to be athletic heroines? I don’t know. Often it seems fantasy assumes some kind of magical birth control and period pain eraser, which sounds great, but, again, can be frustrating to readers who don’t have access to all these magical things. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      • paperjasmine says:

        I know!! Haha, it’s insane really isn’t it. Yeah ok sure we know these heroines might have more serious end-of-the-world matters on their minds, but that assumption that they don’t need to worry about such every day issues such as periods and birth control is so stupid to me. Why is that? Like you so rightly said, why can’t these heroines have heavy bleeding or complain about having to save the world on their period? I think it would make them a little more human or something if they did lol. More relatable for sure. Can’t see it ever changing much though in those genres. Cant see any Katniss Everdeens talking about their periods any time soon haha. We’ll have to keep an eye out for it in contemporary/realistic YA I’m afraid and I would really love to see more of it in those kinds of books!!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Krysta says:

          I don’t know why, but every time I read a dystopian novel or one with a quest, my first thought is something like “But what if they get their periods during the Hunger Games?” Seriously, what if you had a character about to win the Hunger Games but she was suddenly stopped by debilitating cramps? These are the things I wonder about.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. hermionefowl says:

    I always think about this when I read something like the Hunger Games, or when girls are trapped somewhere. Isn’t that going to have quite a big affect?? It doesn’t have to be a main plot point or anything, but I agree, YA books should properly reflect the real world 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      Exactly! If I had my period during the Hunger Games I’d probably just die because I wouldn’t be feeling well enough to stop anyone from killing. I’d just be lying there like “Eh, shoot me now, I guess.” :p Sometimes it seems a bit frustrating that all these heroines seem to have periods so easy they’re not even worth mentioning. I guess you can’t be a hero if your period is painful enough to stop you from doing super heroic and athletic things?

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Donna says:

    Great post. I had never thought about it. I don’t read too much YA but I definitely think mentioning menstruation might be a good idea, especially because, as you said, it influences a woman or girl’s daily life and decisions. It also could help remove the taboo about this mundane subject. I am surprised that we mostly don’t talk about it like it’s something we should be ashamed of, even in our era. Seeing menstruations appear in books could help more people understand that it’s a normal, and painful!, part of women’s life and help young people understand and deal with it more freely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      Yes! In theory, we’re more open about these things than ever, and you can Google just about anything you want. But, as I mentioned in my post, this doesn’t actually always play out. There are plenty of people who don’t understand how others experience menstruation or even their own cycle. I don’t see how addressing it realistically and relatably in a YA book could be a bad thing.

      Like

  7. Jillian says:

    Not to mention the PMS! Goodness, I could do without that. It’s like a beast living inside me, waiting to take over every month!

    Great post. I agree with all your points. Isn’t there (at least one) book that deals with this topic? [i]Are you there God, it’s Me, Margaret[/i]? I feel like Harper Lee’s [i]Go Set a Watchman[/i] also referenced Scout’s period, so good on her. There should definitely be more, to normalize the topic. It’s absurd that it’s so shameful to mention the giant affliction. Yes, for some, it’s no big deal. But for a lot of women, it’s like having a horrendous three-day flu. Yet we have to act like nothing is wrong, or nearly apologize for it. I hate the whole thing — all of it. I feel like I’m apologizing every month for being down for the count and not myself. But I do mention it, because it’s a fact of life. I loudly ask for whatever supplies I need in the store, just to make it hard to keep the whole thing a secret. Doing my part!

    I actually had a salesperson whisper directions to me once, when I was looking for supplies. WHISPER. IN 2016! I was appalled and loudly thanked her for helping me find equipment for my period. PERIOD. That so shouldn’t be a shame word. Also, a period is a tiny dot. We should call it the iceberg instead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jillian says:

      By the way, I just remembered this: I once had a Psych 101 professor lecture in class that PMS is a figment of the female imagination. By once, I mean three years ago. He said there’s no actual evidence that it exists: women imagine it. I looked around the classroom, and NO ONE looked appalled. I said, “You know this from experience, do you?” And he took issue at my taking issue, and we verbally debated for several minutes. I basically asked him who he thought he was, telling a bunch of impressionable freshman that women were idiots. He said, “I don’t understand why you’re getting so angry,” and I said, “MAYBE I have PMS.”

      APPALLING that no once else fought that! IT IS THE GREAT UNMENTIONABLE TOPIC. But on the way out that day, men and women alike patted me on the shoulder and grinned. It needed to be said.

      Like

      • Krysta says:

        This is ridiculous! When I’ve forgotten to check when my period is coming up, I can always tell because I suddenly feel cranky and find myself digging around for chocolate. I guess it’s all in my head, though.

        Like

  8. Stephanie B (@Chasm_of_Books) says:

    Hmmmm. This is interesting. I definitely get why people would like to see periods in YA but I feel like there needs to be a purpose to them being in the story, otherwise what’s the point? I feel like periods are such a personal thing that if there isn’t a legit reason to explore that part of a character’s life then it’s better not to explore them at all.

    Throne of Glass briefly but tastefully addressed Celaena’s period in the first novel. And I Darken by Kiersten White also made a deal of Lada’s periods but they significantly affected the character’s situation beyond just the physical pain and changes her body was going through. At this point, she could be married off to her enemies so her situation becomes more precarious. Alison Croggon also had the period play a small part in The Books of Pellinor, but it fit the character’s story and situations.

    I guess, what I’m trying to say is there needs to be a point behind it. I don’t think people just want to see them thrown in there for the sake of being there. Personally, I would think that as an author it’d be hard to tastefully include them in a story unless it really affects it. I mean, if a character’s period is so bad that they are out of action for a week, then I can see including it because if it’s fantasy then they’re likely in danger. Contemporary… well, I’m not as familiar with contemporary novels so I won’t speak for them.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I don’t know. I tend to wonder about this because it’s a recurring issue that would affect the lives of the characters. Whenever I read an apocalyptic novel where all society has stopped, I’m wondering what the heroine has been doing about her periods. During the Hunger Games, I was wondering what the women were doing about their periods. Whenever women are on a journey, I’m wondering what happens if they get their periods. They might have trouble finding supplies or they might have terrible cramps that take them out of action. It doesn’t seem likely to me that all these women have no issues with their periods.

      I think the “tasteful” argument is one that may be stopping authors. Periods are still seen as taboo. But I don’t know why. It’s a normal part of life that occurs every month for women. Imagine how much of our lives we spend bleeding and trying to find ways to cope. Acting like menstruation is a dirty secret I think just makes things worse where women and girls feel shy asking for what they need. It also allows us to perpetuate myths like women are “just making up” terrible cramps that are preventing them from going to work or school. I’ve even seen women deny debilitating cramps are a thing–because THEY have never had cramps! This kind of mentality makes it almost impossible for women and girls to ask for help without feeling like they’re going to be judged or outright denied what they need.

      Like

    • Briana says:

      I don’t necessarily want to see periods stop popping up in every book everywhere either. It’s more the fact I can think of three authors who mention periods at all. The absence from so many books is what makes it weird.

      I also think there’s a range of “adding a period to the book.” It doesn’t have to be an entire chapter dedicated to a girl breaking out the heating pad while moaning about her life. Just mentioning tampons in a list of things the girl is already packing would work, too.

      Like

  9. TeacherofYA says:

    “Although I may not be able to point to a particular YA book and say ‘This would be better if the protagonist had her period,’ I can look at YA as a whole say ‘It feels so frustrating that all these books gloss over something that has such a large impact on my life.’
    I’m sorry, but the first part of this sentence made me laugh. “This book would have been so much better if she had only had her period!” she said with conviction. Sorry, I’m a child. 😆
    But I agree…I have read some books where the protagonist claims to have cramps to get out of events, but they never mention when it ACTUALLY happens. I have horrible, debilitating cramps. I thought I was the only one. It would have been nice to know that others out there suffered as well…especially when I was a teen. So I agree with you: sometimes writers must remember that their characters are supposed to be human, and women. We don’t need to know the “gory” details, only that they have been where all us ladies have.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I have terrible cramps. Three days out of every month I basically spend curled up on the floor wishing for the end. If I can. Because I have to go to school or work or wherever and in society it’s still not acceptable in all circles to say “I can’t come in today. I have cramps.” It sounds, indeed, like you’re just trying to worm your way out of doing work every month. And I have seen other women insist that cramps are not a thing–because they never have had cramps! Pretending periods don’t exist in literature can further perpetuate this myth that no one has to worry about menstruation, it’s no big deal. But that can be harmful for the girls and women who need support and care.

      Liked by 1 person

      • TeacherofYA says:

        I see what you’re saying: it happens to me, too. People think you’re being a baby or making it up. There needs to be more awareness about the burden most women carry: the burden of painful debilitating cramps.
        And it would be more understood if people made it an issue. I never thought about it before, but most people I speak with about their period say they get horrific cramps. So I’m wondering if it’s just because people think it’s a taboo topic? Because menstruation means fertility, which means sex?

        Like

        • Briana says:

          I was actually really surprised to read some articles recently that stated that women who experience pain during their periods are in the majority. From the way it seems to never, ever be mentioned, I would have assumed pain was common but maybe not the norm, but that’s not the case at all! The articles also interestingly suggested that the idea that pain is either not mentioned or just accepted as an inevitable burden to bear without complaint might be partially responsible for the lack of any real research into dealing with it that doesn’t involve birth control. I have no idea if that’s true, but it makes sense to me on an intuitive level.

          Liked by 1 person

          • TeacherofYA says:

            You know, birth control never helped my cramps. All it did was guarantee I would get my period every month (I’m quite irregularl and I like it because I rarely get it). So all I was doing was making sure I would have to have cramps every single month. It’s such a myth. It does make a period shorter, and maybe a little lighter in flow, but the cramps are there in all their glory.
            And what’s worse is all the women out there that get cysts on their ovaries…all women get cysts from the release of the egg, but women like me get some that don’t go away, but get bigger. I lost an ovary because I had to have one removed. It’s called PCOS, and I’m coming to find that it’s more common that I thought. And one of the side effects? Painful debilitating cramps. So for all the women fighting for all these equal rights, let’s have them fight to have cramps recognized as a real thing. Let’s get real. You know?

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        • Krysta says:

          I think partly it’s taboo and partly there’s this mentality that it’s just what happens so you should grin and bear it. But it seems to me that we ought to try to understand what’s happening better. Why do some women have debilitating cramps and others have none? What can we do to help women?

          Liked by 1 person

          • TeacherofYA says:

            What can we do to find better pain relievers for women, would be my hope for research.
            I really like that we are discussing this and shedding some light on the problem. It needs to be addressed, and it needs to be accepted.

            Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      I also thought for a very long time that I was the only one experiencing debilitating cramps because no one ever mentions it. In society, you’re supposed to grin through it all, or, if it’s that bad, remove yourself from work and school and just pretend it never happened. I think it would have been great for me as a teen to see book characters experiencing this. Maybe I would have tried to do something about it sooner, whatever little things can be done, rather than just assuming it was just me or just a thing that had to be politely accepted.

      It is a funny sentence! I was just asking myself the question “Should books have periods?” and the first thing I cam up with was “Well, I’ve never thought that while actually reading a book!” So it initially seemed weird to me to demand that books still should discuss them, and I had to think through it some more. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  10. kirstyandthecatread says:

    I dont think I’d like it if authors just started mentioning Periods it would probably seem a little forced. I think if it’s relevant, if it adds to the story or if you can work it in so it doesnt seem forced then that’s great but I think so many really important things are missed out that periods is probably very low down on my list of things I want to see more in books 🙂

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    • Briana says:

      Yeah, I don’t think authors need to start throwing them in everywhere, but it’s something worth thinking about. I also imagine there’s a spectrum that ranges between “writing an entire scene about some chick bleeding and dying of cramps” to just casually mentioning a girl adding tampons to her basket at the grocery store. There’s potentially a way to acknowledge them in YA that isn’t making the entire focus of the book the girl’s period.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Madeline @ The SFF Bookshelf says:

    This is a very interesting topic, and I do think it needs to be addressed somewhere in young adult fiction. There is definitely few books that mention menstruation, and seeing as it is a big part of most women’s lives it is kind of strange that books don’t showcase that more. To be honest, the only book that I can remember reading where the author mentions the main character on her period is the “Throne of Glass” series by Sarah J. Maas. It was either the first book or the second one, I can’t remember. But seeing how many books there are out there, it is quite surprising that the number of books that mention menstruation is quite small.

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    • Briana says:

      The three authors that I could think of who addressed periods were basically the only three who have come up in the comments: Sarah J Maas, Tamora Pierce, and Harper Lee in Go Set a Watchman (which I wouldn’t call YA anyway). So it seems YA really is lacking in this category since we’re all drawing blanks. That was my bigger point, not that every book has to deal with it (that might be a bit wild), but that the category as a whole could probably deal with it more.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. La La in the Library says:

    I think if it has something to do with the storyline, sure! If a person missed a game, or a party, or had to deal with sitting the SATs while cramping because of her period it makes the story more realistic and relatable. I just hope it doesn’t become a “thing” new writers jump on to be noticed and a whole avalanche of YA books come out with periods in them. You know how that happens sometimes. I think it needs to be demystified for boys, too. My son had a rudimentary knowledge of menstruation and when the 5th grade girls were taken out of class for their “special” assembly the teacher explained to the boys who were left behind that it was a “girls only” subject and they were not to ask the girls about it when they got back. Well of course they did and one of tje girls said something about periods, so of course my son had to explain it to a couple of the boys at recess. The next day he was sent to the office and I got a note home from the teacher. He was really confused because they made him feel like he did something bad. I was so angry.

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    • Briana says:

      I can’t even imagine that discussion. “Your son is in big trouble!” “For what?” “Answering a biology question at recess.” -.-

      I get separating the students to have the classes because kids can be cruel. It’s definitely a thing to harass girls about periods or look askance at the one girl who got hers before everyone else. But acting like the whole thing is a big, dirty secret just adds to this problem. If you approach it as normal and just a biological fact of life, it has to help kids not act like complete weirdos about it, AND it’s better to give them factual information rather than having kids dealing in rumors or crazy Internet information.

      It’s one of the reasons I think adding it to books can be good. Obviously not in every book, but there has to be a place for it in some books.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      I’m mostly confused that, from all the comments, we’ve collectively come up with…three authors who mention periods. I definitely don’t think it needs to be in every book, but three seems very low considering how many YA books are published!

      Like

  13. Danaye says:

    I absolutely think menstruation should be mentioned if it’s relevant to the story! Otherwise, it seems unnecessary. But, look at classics like “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret” — it’s an important coming of age story and it definitely doesn’t shy away from that particular part of a girl’s road to puberty. 🙂

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    • Briana says:

      Yes! It doesn’t have to be every book, but I can envision periods playing a role in some books. I just finished Go Set a Watchman (not really YA, but whatever), and Jean Louise has a flashback to her first period and how she had to sit out recess at school that day because she was just waddling awkwardly about wearing all her new equipment and didn’t know what to do with herself. It was just funny and relateable (even though pads/tampons have obviously become less bulky since then).

      Liked by 1 person

  14. saraletourneau says:

    Wow… You know, as a reader of YA fantasy (among other genres), I can only think of three books off the top of my head that mention the protagonist’s period. That says a lot about how little it’s discussed (either casually or at length) in that genre. But as a writer who’s working on a YA fantasy with a female lead, including her period never crossed my mind. It might be because it doesn’t impact the plot. But it makes me wonder if it’s worth putting it in there once or twice (casually), since she would definitely worry about her menstruation when it hits…

    Thanks for writing this post and giving readers AND writers something to think about. 😉

    Like

    • Briana says:

      Exactly! We all joke “Well, no one talks about going to the bathroom or brushing their teeth in books either,” but actually they do, more than they talk about periods. Characters will go to the bathroom after lunch or fight each other to brush their teeth first in the morning or throw a toothbrush in their suitcase when packing for a trip. There could be casual mentions like that of periods. I think some people thought I was calling for a full chapter dedicated to a girl bleeding and going on a desperate mission to find Advil or something, but it doesn’t have to be that! And it doesn’t have to be in every book. I just find it weird that, as a whole, YA seems to be glossing over the subject.

      Liked by 1 person

      • saraletourneau says:

        “I think some people thought I was calling for a full chapter dedicated to a girl bleeding and going on a desperate mission to find Advil or something, but it doesn’t have to be that!”

        Exactly! I interpreted that way (casual mentions, not full chapters devoted to the Monthly Friend), so no worries on my end.

        And after thinking about it for a while today, I have one or two spots where it would be appropriate to mention my MC’s bleedings. 😉 Given the fact that she’s traveling for most of the story, it’s something she’d have to think about before she leaves home.

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  15. Bailey @ Fictional Fox says:

    This is great! And I do think it’s an oversight, especially when it would be an obstacle in relation to the plot! I recently read a book where a 16 year old girl disguised herself as a boy and joined the army. I was irked that they didn’t include anything about periods as it seemed relevant to the story! How did she manage to keep up her facade and deal with that?
    The only author I can think of that has actively mentioned menstruation in her books is Tamora Pierce and I loved that! So relatable!
    Now that I’m thinking about it, the absence of periods is really bothersome to me. Especially when it seems that so many YA authors are willing to inject sex and such into their works.

    Like

  16. Lunch-Time Librarian says:

    This is a difficult point for sure. It’s not exactly comparative to mentioning characters going to the bathroom because menstruation is tied to the female adolescent experience. I think it really depends on the sort of story that’s being told. I think in things like contemporaries where things like embarrassing yourself by bleeding through your pants are more relevant should absolutely mention periods. But in other genres, it feels less necessary. Like I would find it difficult to find a place for it in fantasy, though it sometimes appears there in the form of a girl becoming a woman because she’s had her period. Though more often than not that leads to her being forced into marriage so it’s less positive there…

    Like

  17. Sierra @ Quest Reviews says:

    Such a great point! It’s not something that I ever consciously thought about. But when my sister first started showing interest in reading (in late elementary), I shoved all the Tamora Pierce books in her hands because it’s always the one I related to the most as a child. I didn’t even recall the period scene until my sister mentioned it. And that is one of the reasons why it was my favorite books as a child (one of many naturally). BECAUSE IT HAPPENS PEOPLE.
    And also because if you’re pretending to be a boy… it WOULD be a problem. There are quite a few ‘girl-pretends-to-be-a-boy’ books out there that just forget about the issue.

    Like

    • Sierra @ Quest Reviews says:

      On another slightly humorous note, I remember when I first moved to the US, I was 14 and enrolled in 9th grade. I had just 2 months left of the year so it was a terrible time to adjust to a new culture and school. Anyway, the gym class for that semester was swimming. And every month I had to awkwardly go up to my (male) gym teacher and ask to be excused.
      I remember being shocked because NOBODY ELSE did that! DO AMERICAN GIRLS NOT GET THEIR PERIOD?! That was the first thought that was in my head. This was before I learned about tampons because they don’t sell them in India. Eventually, I figured it out. But I was so embarrassed and confused.

      Like

      • Briana says:

        My school didn’t have a pool, so no swimming class, but I’m pretty sure girls would sometimes asked to be excused from normal gym class for their periods just because they hated gym. (Seriously, gym was pass/fail, and most girls would basically participate just enough times to pass.) So I’m surprised no one pulled that just to get out of swimming. Also, some people can’t even use tampons or just don’t want to!

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    • Briana says:

      So true! The disguised girls tend to worry about bathing and changing in any public areas, but the periods just get glossed over. What do you do about buying supplies, storing them, or using them? What is you have cramps or mood swings? You just pretend you have some wild recurring illness? “Uh, monthly stomach pains, guys. Old family curse. No need to worry.” :p

      Like

  18. Valerie says:

    I HOPE I AM NOT TOO LATE TO THIS DISCUSSION. I have been meaning to comment on this!

    I agree with all of this! I would never come out of a book thinking “wow should have mentioned periods, 2 stars” or something along those likes. But then again it’s such a common occurrence that it’s a little weird that it’s not mentioned. It’s not like going to the bathroom. Going to the bathroom is pretty universal/consistent among humans, there’s really no need to describe it. On the other hand, every girl’s period is different, even from month to month. I think it’s important to show that in YA, especially when we’re already super self-conscious of what are periods are “supposed” to be like.

    I’m pretty passionate about this topic, mainly because I had NO idea what actually constituted as “normal” for a period. I think if I had representation in media or books, I would have figured out that I needed to get things checked out sooner.

    Like

    • Briana says:

      Exactly! The lack of mentioning periods implies this assumption that there’s nothing to say because “we all know how it goes” or something, which that’s actually not true. It’s also not true that periods don’t impact people’s daily lives in a way that might actually disrupt part of the plot. And I have seen people are “You can just Google periods,” which is true. However, you first need to have some awareness that there’s something you ought to be Googling. How would you know there’s something weird about your period worth doing an Internet search on if you’ve never had an indication what you’re experiencing isn’t normal?

      Like

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