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YA reads for fans of the hit TV show Yellowjackets

On Sunday, the season finale of Yellowjackets will air on Showtime. I just spent the last week binging season 1 with my 19 year old daughter and could not help but think of so many great YA books that fans of the show may like to read. Here’s my caveat: this show is rated M for Mature, and for good reason, so I am in no way recommending the show to teens. But for the new young adults in the world, like my daughter, who are watching the show, boy do I have some good YA lit recommendations for you.

Yellow jackets is a show about the dynamics of teenage girl ecosystems. It’s a show about survival. And it’s a show about adult women navigating PTSD, survivor’s guilt, and the very real atrocities that they have committed while trying to survive after spending 19 months stranded in a remote forest when their plane crashes. Cannibalism may or may not be involved. The show is compelling and profound and disturbing. Like I said, I can’t in good faith recommend the show to teens, but it’s some fantastic television. A combination of Lost meets This is Us meets Lord of the Flies. There are some very graphic scenes of violence, nudity, and sex, for those who need to know. But wow, is this a powerful exploration of teen girls and adult women.

As a former teen girl, as the mother of two teen girls, and as a now adult woman, I found this to be such an enthralling show. And it was profound for me to have a young adult daughter, 19, who I could watch this show with and talk about it. Don’t get me wrong, there were some scenes that were a little uncomfy to watch together as we’re just figuring out what it means to have an adult child, but what a profound gift to have this show where we could talk about being both a young woman and an older woman and share stories. Yes, we squirmed and gasped, but we also bonded and talked about really important things surrounding the idea of what it means to be female in this world.

Lord of the Flies is about how socialization falls away and how society is a facade. We thought, who is more socialized than women? As girls, you learn early on how to make people like you and what the social hierarchies are,” Lyle explained. “It’s a more interesting way of having things fall away. The mask is even thicker. It’s a more layered amount of preconceived notions of how to behave and act.” – Source: https://www.marieclaire.com/culture/tv-shows/yellowjackets-season-2/

So here are some other fabulous YA titles that touch on various themes found in Yellowjackets, including teen girl group dynamics and survival. The books I recommend below focus on the teen timeline of the show, and I don’t read a lot of adult fiction so I don’t have a lot of adult book recommendations. However, I did recently read The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix and feel that it also would be a good recommendation for Yellowjackets fans, especially as it touches on the psychological aftermath in adulthood of traumatic teen life experiences.

Here are my YA lit recommendations . . .

Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrand

I love this book and as a teen that read a lot of Stephen King, I often think of this book as a cross between Stephen King and National Treasure with a feminist twist.

Publisher’s Book Description: Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep. He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.

Who are the Sawkill Girls?

Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.

Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

The setting for this most reminds me of the survive the forest parts of Yellowjackets. And the group dynamics are amazing.

Publisher’s Book Description: It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

You want girls alone in the wilderness trying to survive? This book has that in spades with powerful commentary on the patriarchy and breaking down the stereotypes we have of how awful women are to one another. It goes to really dark places.

Publisher’s Book Description: No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.

Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young

This may seem like an out there recommendation, but it does have the girl group dynamics and survival, with more science fiction elements thrown in.

Publisher’s Book Description:

The Girls of Innovations Academy are beautiful and well-behaved—it says so on their report cards. Under the watchful gaze of their Guardians, the all-girl boarding school offers an array of studies and activities, from “Growing a Beautiful and Prosperous Garden” to “Art Appreciation” and “Interior Design.” The girls learn to be the best society has to offer. Absent is the difficult math coursework, or the unnecessary sciences or current events. They are obedient young ladies, free from arrogance or defiance. Until Mena starts to realize that their carefully controlled existence may not be quite as it appears.

As Mena and her friends begin to uncover the dark secrets of what’s actually happening there—and who they really are—the girls of Innovations will find out what they are truly capable of. Because some of the prettiest flowers have the sharpest thorns.

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

This is like the YA classic Hatchet; it’s a straight up wilderness survival story featuring a female main character. Because I had read this book, I found myself saying why didn’t the girls do x or y several times while watching Yellowjackets.

Publisher’s Book Description: The world is not tame.

Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof. So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine. Morning brings the realization that she’s alone – and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive despite the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.

Some other recommendations: One Was Lost and Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards, The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma, Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, Playing with Fire by April Henry, and They’ll Never Catch Us by Jessica Goodman

For some YA dealing with the after affects of trauma, try Little Creeping Things by Chelsea Ichaso and The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis.

I know there are so many great books out there that fans of this show will like. What are your recommendations?

Sunday Reflections: Once Again, I March

**Content Warning: Pregnancy Loss is Discussed**

Yesterday I marched. Again.

The girls and I at the Women’s March in 2017

I am a white Christian woman who has been married 26 years to my white Christian husband and I have had an abortion. I am only alive today because I had an abortion. My second child only exists in this world because I had an abortion.

When I was pregnant with Riley, I threw up a lot. More than I realized a person could. It was an unpleasant experience. What I didn’t know then is that it could be a deadly experience. Four years later, I would find that out.

I fought to live to see this kid grow up

When Riley was four, I became pregnant again. On purpose this time. Riley was a surprise, but a much loved one. I experienced everything I experienced in that first pregnancy but to much more of an extreme. Soon the vomiting came. And then the visits to the hospital.

But this time was different, and so very worse. I could keep nothing down. Nothing. Even with me taking the anti-nauseous medicine they gave to cancer patients receiving chemo, I could not stop vomiting. I threw up 24/7. My body started to break down in a process called metabolic acidosis. My resting heart rate was well over a 100 while my blood pressure was so low they marveled that I was even alive at one point. And I kept having to take costly trips to the ER where I was admitted, made stable, and then sent home with a set of instructions of what to look for and when to come back. And we all knew I was coming back.

At about 6 1/2 they did an ultrasound and the heartbeat was . . . slow and intermittent. The tech nervously turned off the sound and said it didn’t necessarily mean anything. But I think we all knew it meant everything. I was barely surviving this pregnancy, how could my baby?

One day Tim and I started discussing terminating the pregnancy to save my life. It came after another trip to the ER. It came after a night where I had to lock Riley and I up in my upstairs bedroom in case I died during the night because Tim worked nights and I was home alone with a 4 year old and I kept passing out. I tried teaching her how to dial 911 and took the locks off of my cell phone. I gathered together a bunch of 4 year old safe snacks, water, and locked us both up in my bedroom so she wouldn’t fall down the stairs or open the front door. I remember staring at her and wondering who she would become if she had to grow up without a mother. So Tim and I started the process of saving my life and we made an appointment for an abortion .

We met with our pastor. We went again to the ER. And this trip to the ER, they did an ultrasound. It’s surprising how often they don’t do one on a pregnant woman in the ER. And the ultrasound tech looked and looked and looked. She told me I measured around 6 weeks but there was no heartbeat yet. I told her that I had measured 6 1/2 weeks and had heard the heartbeat . . . a whole 3 weeks before this visit. She said she couldn’t tell me that my baby had died, but she could tell me that I only measured 6 weeks and that there was no heartbeat. She told me if I had measured 6 weeks 3 weeks ago and had heard a heartbeat that my the baby I was carrying had most likely died but she couldn’t tell me that because it was her first time seeing me

The next day, I went and saw a new ob/gyn, this one who performs abortions should I need to take that route. We once again had the same discussion about the measurements and the heartbeat. He told me that it was the law that I had to wait 24 hours to perform the abortion and that he hoped that I would survive the next day, waiting. He told me, once again, what to look for and when to go to the ER: if I got too dehydrated, heart symptoms to watch for, passing out, etc.

When the time came I was loaded up into the car and taken back to have the abortion. I drove down with a picture of the baby we were 99% dead in my hand. I didn’t feel guilt or shame about having the abortion, I felt relief in knowing that I was going to live and get to watch Riley grow up.

That night, I laid on my bedroom floor and cried. And I don’t know how to say this, but I had . . . a vision? I don’t know. But I saw myself lying on the bedroom floor just as I was, crying. And before me knelt Jesus with his hands cupped and he caught my tears before they hit the floor. And I felt that somehow, my God was telling me that he grieved for me and with me and he was comforting me. I don’t know exactly what happened or how to describe it, but that moment has stayed with me throughout the remainder of my days. It brings me peace. And in the moments when doubt about my faith creeps in, I recall this moment.

Thankful every day that this kid exists

A couple of years later I would get pregnant again. I was kept alive this time with at home IV therapy and a drug cocktail that didn’t make me throw up any less. I threw up so much and so fiercely that my placenta began to separate at around 20 weeks. I remember going to the ER and they told me that my baby wouldn’t make it through the weekend and to come back if I started hemorrhaging. A nurse came to my house every 3 days to change my IV location. Thankfully, my baby and I survived that pregnancy and regular readers know her as Thing 2.

The ABCs of HG: an unconventional picture book (Karen’s story)

The pregnancy disease that I have is called Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I have talked about it a lot here. And it’s genetic, which means as the mother of two daughters that either one or both of them could have it. The don’t get pregnant before you’re ready talk has an extra layer added when you realize that you may be genetically pre-disposed to a life threatening pregnancy condition.

So yesterday, Tim and I went to our local Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom because we love our children. We know that pregnancy can be complicated and even life threatening. And we want our daughters, these glorious children of ours that we love and adore, to be recognized as fully human and to have the right to make their own bodily and health care choices.

Abortion in healthcare. I am only alive today because I could choose to end a pregnancy that was literally killing me. My second child is only alive today because I could choose to end a pregnancy that was literally killing me. Pregnancy is messy and complicated and life threatening for many people. They deserve the right to make their own healthcare decisions. I want my daughters to have the right to make their own healthcare decisions, because I love them with every ounce of my being.

Abortion in Teen and Young Adult Literature

As the election approaches, the topic of abortion and reproductive rights has been getting a lot of attention in the news. And with the sad passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg this past weekend, a newly open Supreme Court seat is really pushing this conversation to the forefront of 2020 election issues. Below you will find a gallery of YA/Teen titles that discuss the topic of abortion.

I haven’t read all of these, but I have read a good number of them.

Girl on the Verge is a great title that focuses on three teen girls who take a road trip together as they support one of the girls who are trying to obtain an abortion. This title takes place in Texas and it highlights a lot of hurdles, including a judge that makes decisions based on their own religion and how a friend who is Christian and against abortion personally decides to support her friend making a decision she doesn’t necessarily agree with.

The Truth About Alice is by a Texas author and pulls back the current on the truth about abortion protestors: many of them get abortions of their own even while they are protesting the very medical service that they are using. It’s a profound novel about shut shaming and rumors.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear is one of my favorite feminist books for a wide variety of reasons. One, it highlights the truly competitive nature of high school cheerleading. Two, it highlights female friendship and how you can stand by a friend who was raped. And three, it highlights a teen girl being allowed to make decisions about her body after being raped.

The Whitsun Daughters was just released and Amanda MacGregor reviews it here. She says it is a “gorgeously layered look at love, loss, and the complex lives of girls. Not to be missed.”

I actually just listened to All Eyes on Her last week and was surprised by the role that abortion played in this story. It’s a psychological thriller in which a teen girl is accused of killing her boyfriend by pushing him off of a cliff. At one point during the trial a picture which is presumed to be of her entering an abortion clinic appears on social media, which is used to make her look even more guilty. She’s an unreliable narrator so you don’t know if she’s telling the truth about the events of the story or the abortion throughout a large portion of the story. Tucked away in this psychological thriller is a lot of feminist discussion about the difference in the ways that teen boys and girls are treated in social media, in the justice system, and more. It was a really good book. Recommended for fans of Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany Jackson, which tackles a lot of the same themes and is one of the best psychological thrillers with feminist discussions out there.

Whatever one’s personal opinion on this topic, it’s important that we provide books and resources on it for our patrons, yes even teen ones. These novels can help our teens read about and wrestle with this topic that they are hearing about in the news. And let’s not forget, many of our teens have or will have abortions.

If you have other titles to add to this list, please share a comment with us.

Fiercely Feminist YA Reads for 2020

Because it’s Women’s History Month. Actually, just because they’re good, here are some fiercely feminist reads coming out in 2020. This is by no means a comprehensive list, just enough to get you started in your reading.

Here are some other lists you can check out as well:

BitchReads: 25 YA Novels Feminists Should Read in 2020

Reads for the Rest of Us: Feminist Reads Coming Out in 2020

Feminist AF: What Makes a YA Book a Feminist YA Book?

feministI don’t think there is a clear cut answer, and that everyone’s answer is a bit different. I have been asking myself this question for months now, and I thought I would take this chance to explore my thoughts on the subject.

 

At first when I considered this question, I was thinking of YA books that have been presented to me as feminist books.  The quickest that came to mind were those with storylines that directly grapple with feminism in the form of a fight against a male-dominated establishment. What I have discovered is that most of the time, the way that has shaken out is we look at books where characters fight back against sexual assault and we say “this is feminist.” Which, yeah, they can be. For sure. I certainly consider books like Natasha Ngan’s Girls of Paper and Fire, Joy McCullough’s Blood Water Paint and Tehlor Kay Mejia’s We Set the Dark on Fire to be feminist. Do we require our feminism in YA books to be reactionary? Does something terrible have to happen first for us to fight back against? I think the answer is no.

 

I think about books like Rebecca Barrow’s You Don’t Know Me But I Know You and Brandy Colbert’s Finding Yvonne, which both deal with reproductive choices as they relate to a single character. By nature, these are feminist YA books, though they don’t involve a huge outward fight. Books like Olivia Hinebaugh’s The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me and Camryn Garrett’s upcoming Full Disclosure, feature girls who want access to information about sexual health. Feminist.

 

As I was writing this, I went back to the idea of reactionary feminism in YA. And I think, in a different way, there are books that are feminist in a reactionary and revolutionary way, just because media has told us for so long that this isn’t what our stories look like. I’ve started counting named roles in musicals, and the percentage of them that belong to women. It’s usually less than half, even in musicals with female leads. And then I think about Mean Girls, which features a substantial amount of girl roles, but is still filled with girl-on-girl hatred, fatphobia, and just a general sense of unease. In so much media, whether it be musicals, or movies, or tv shows, women are shown to be less. Less speaking time, less characters, less opportunity for antiheroines or messy life choices, less strong female friendships (or romance where one of them doesn’t get killed, I still haven’t finished Buffy after the thing happened). It’s gotten better, but there’s still so much that needs fixing.

 

So what are some books that feel revolutionarily feminist when it comes to these issues? Well, I think Rebecca Barrow’s This is What it Feels Like presents female friendship and the messy nature of its evolution in a way that shouldn’t feel as radical as it does (again, thanks media!) I see Julie C Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix in this revolutionary feminist light. The first has a main character who doesn’t shy away from being an anti-heroine, the second has a quiet princess—and neither has to apologize for existing that way. Do you remember the way it felt when If I Was Your Girl released? A moment that was astounding, and long overdue? Amy Rose Capetta’s The Brilliant Death features a demigirl main character in a fantasy setting, and the fact that I was even able to write that sentence feels sensational.

 

An important point I want to note. A book cannot be feminist and transphobic. If your feminism is at the expense of transgender teens/readers and non-binary teens/readers, then your feminism isn’t feminism, it is cruelty.

 

I’ve mentioned a number of books through this that I think are great feminist picks, but I want to make special note of Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan’s Watch Us Rise. It is intersectional in its feminism, it is fighting back against a broken system, and it has a strong female friendship at its core.

 

There are many ways a YA book can be a feminist YA book, and I think I’ve only scratched the surface. It is important to keep in mind that not every feminist book will tell you loudly that it is feminist. We have to talk about the loudly feminist books and the quiet feminist books and all the volumes in between.

 

profilepicRachel Strolle is a teen librarian in a Chicago suburb. Prior to that, she was an indie bookseller for five years. She currently runs Rec-It Rachel, a blog where she yells about books you should read and makes your TBR way too long (and she is not sorry).

Feminist AF: Hearing Their Voices: Supporting Female Empowerment in Middle Grade Fiction for Tweens and Teens a guest post by Author Diane Magras

feministWhen I was a child, the books I loved most—fast-paced adventure stories that swept me away from my rural, small town life—regularly reinforced the belief that girls’ voices didn’t matter. Those glorious, heart-pounding stories featured girls who were present only to be saved, or to be silly, or both—or had no girls at all.

That these attitudes still exist in books and life during my adulthood, even after more than a decade of “girl power” movements, is a problem. And it’s a huge problem when it sneaks into the books that kids love to read. What are we showing our girls—and our boys—when a popular series features a female sidekick whose role is to be beaten up by villains, and then rescued by the boy protagonist, in every single book? Thank goodness
for Sayantani DasGupta’s Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series, where a girl
battles demons and leads rescue missions with boys right alongside her; or Henry Lien’s
Peasprout Chen books, which depict a world of skating and kung-fu where girls are
always equal to (and sometimes rather superior to) the boys.

We need books like these, books that show girl’s voices—loud or quiet—making a
difference. Right now in the real world, we’re still debating how much women’s voices
matter—and “feminism” is a loaded term. Students are growing up seeing women reach
high political offices—and then be relentlessly criticized for being themselves and
speaking up.

We children’s authors have a crucial role to play in changing this, especially if we’re
aiming to write books that kids will love to pick up. Our books can, with subtlety,
challenge gender stereotypes by showing girls’ voices influencing all parts of a plot. And
I’m delighted to be part of that.

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 9.26.53 AM

(Cover art by Antonio Javier Caparo)

I’m the author of unabashedly feminist middle grade fiction, which I hope will serve,
engage, and inspire both girls and boys. My books—the first two are The Mad Wolf’s
Daughter and The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter—address gender stereotypes and a
girl’s role in fiction head-on. They’re Scottish medieval adventures filled with swordplay
and escapes, secrets and betrayals, tense scenes and cliffhanger chapter endings—the
kind of vivid, action-packed narrative I always loved.

They also star an unusual female protagonist who I could have used when I was a tween.
Her name is Drest. She’s the youngest in a family of men who together form a ferocious
war-band. Because she’s one of them, she’s been trained like them, and there’s no
question that she’s equal. When her father and brothers are captured and hauled off to be
hanged, she finds a sword and embarks on a rescue mission.

In Drest’s world, her confidence rarely wavers and her male family constantly backs her
up. In their relationship, I aimed to depict a realistic world where boys and men
supported the actions and voice of a girl.

And where a girl is, hands down, the most capable character on every page.
In the second book, Drest is fleeing for her life when a deadly price is put on her head. In
this adventure, she meets women who have the power to change her story—a mysterious
healer who helps to arm her, a village wife who protects her, another healer who stands
up to a castle of enemy knights to help Drest escape, and a noblewoman whose voice can
utterly shift the power in the world around Drest.

I want my readers to see women and girls ruling, deciding, making a difference—and
being listened to across the board by all the boys and men in the book because their
voices are crucial. (And I want readers to also see that boys and men can be thoughtful,
compassionate, caring, and able to cry—and not be insulted for crying.)

I’m glad to stand with my fellow 2018 debut authors Sayantani DasGupta and Henry
Lien in depicting strong girls in exciting adventure stories. And there are others leading
the charge in realistic fiction too—Laura Shovan’s Takedown features a young female
wrestler struggling against gender bias, whose male wrestling partner backs her up at
every turn; and Mae Respicio’s The House That Lou Built (the 2019 Asian/Pacific ALA
Honor book for Children’s Literature, by the way) stars a young engineer who plans to
use her skills to build a home, gathering a group of kids of different genders who support
and follow her.

I’m heartened that authors writing for tweens and teens are thinking about this, but there
still needs to be more. And we parents and teachers and librarians need to encourage boys
as well as girls to read these books. Girls can’t be the only ones to read stories that say
their voices matter. And boys can’t be shamed for wanting to read a book with a girl on
the cover, something that happens far too often at school, at libraries, and at home.
When girls and boys both are reading stories where girls’ voices matter, they’re delving
into a crucial model for our real-life world. These models will reinforce and strengthen a
commitment to equality in the real world through that empowerment of girls’ voices.
I want girls and boys to learn from my books, as well as other books challenging
stereotypes, that it’s crucial to question the status quo of gender roles.

And when they see a girl—or woman—being criticized for her looks, her personality, or
her voice, I want all kids to ask why, and to feel empowered to challenge it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 9.24.04 AMDiane Magras is the author of the New York Times Editors’ Choice The Mad Wolf’s Daughter and its companion novel, The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter. She’s obsessed with Scotland, castles, legends, and most things medieval, though from a decidedly contemporary perspective, and always with a feminist bent. Diane works for a cultural nonprofit and lives with her husband and son in the woods in Maine.

Book Review: Girls on the Verge by Sharon Biggs Waller

girlsonthevergePublisher’s Book Description

A powerful, timely coming-of-age story about a young woman from Texas who goes on a road trip with two friends to get an abortion, from award-winning author Sharon Biggs Waller.

Camille couldn’t be having a better summer. But on the very night she learns she got into a prestigious theater program, she also finds out she’s pregnant. She definitely can’t tell her parents. And her best friend, Bea, doesn’t agree with the decision Camille has made.

Camille is forced to try to solve her problem alone . . . and the system is very much working against her. At her most vulnerable, Camille reaches out to Annabelle Ponsonby, a girl she only barely knows from the theater. Happily, Annabelle agrees to drive her wherever she needs to go. And in a last-minute change of heart, Bea decides to come with.

Girls on the Verge is an incredibly timely novel about a woman’s right to choose. Sharon Biggs Waller brings to life a narrative that has to continue to fight for its right to be told, and honored.

Karen’s Thoughts

In November of 2016 when they announced that Donald Trump would be our new president I, like many women, went out and bought a supply of Plan B to keep on hand. Fast forward to the year 2019 and access to abortion and to some extent even birth control is very much being challenged. And this is most definitely the case in the state of Texas, where I live, work and raise two daughters who may have a genetic predisposition to a life threatening pregnancy condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum, the very pregnancy condition that threatened my life and forced my husband and I to access abortion services to end a failing pregnancy and save my life. The fundamental right to full bodily autonomy and to make one’s own medical decisions is a topic that I feel strongly about; I am glad that novels that tackle the topic of abortion head on that are written by people who care about teens are being written, especially at a time when reproductive justice is being threatened.

Abortion is a topic that doesn’t come up often in YA literature, although it has and does occasionally appear. In Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Jonston, a teen girl who is raped finds herself pregnant and terminates her pregnancy with no shame or regrets. In The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu, a teen who is forced to protest abortion with her conservative mother has an abortion before she joins her pro-life parents on the picket line. Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin, The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas and What Girls are Made Of by Elana K. Arnold are just a few of the 59 titles mentioned on a Goodreads list of YA titles that deal with the topic of abortion. Out of the 1,000s of YA novels written, this is a very low number of titles.

Girls on the Verge is a no holds barred look not only at abortion, but at the difficulties one teen in the state of Texas has in trying to access an abortion. Her mind made up, it’s not so much about the will she or won’t she, but the how of it. Camille takes a road trip that involves a fake abortion clinic that wants to pray and counsel the teen, a court appearance to try and obtain the right to an abortion without parental consent by a judge who forces his own personal convictions on the teen, and a quest to find abortion pills. Currently living in the state of Texas, this entire journey felt real. And along the way, there is a lot of rich and meaningful conversation about what it means to be female and female friendship that happens in that car. I loved and valued the conversations that these girls had.

This is a controversial subject and I felt that Waller handled every aspect of it so well. Camille is pretty sure of her decision and doesn’t feel a weight-load of guilt, a point of view that isn’t often presented when we talk about the topic of abortion in any form of media let alone YA literature. She is very well supported by one female companion and is somewhat supported by her lifelong best friend who has personal moral objections to Camille’s decision, but also chooses to support her friend so that she doesn’t have to go through this alone. The discussion is meaningful, rich and, I think, important. Each teen is challenged in various ways and the reader gets a lot of insight into their lives and thoughts.

The characters are deeply drawn and readers will be invested in them, but more than anything this is a timely and important novel about the topic of reproductive justice and the current challenges to it that anyone with a uterus faces. Waller shares resources and a personal note that explains why she felt it is important that this novel and novels like it get written. Highly recommended.

Feminist AF: The Amelia Bloomer Project, by Ally Watkins

Did you know that there’s an ALA committee that curates an excellent list of feminist books for children and teens?

The Amelia Bloomer Project blog on WordPress: https://ameliabloomer.wordpress.com/

The Amelia Bloomer Project blog on WordPress: https://ameliabloomer.wordpress.com/

If not, I’m delighted to introduce you to the Amelia Bloomer Project, a committee of the Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT). The Amelia Bloomer Project committee members search all year for books aimed at ages birth-18 that are well-written, well-illustrated, and have significant feminist content. During the ALA Midwinter Conference, members deliberate to produce a list of quality titles that meet this criteria.  This year’s list has 68 titles on it, and Top Ten titles were selected. Check out this year’s list here!

I’ve been lucky enough to be a member of this committee and it’s been an incredible experience. It’s changed the way I look at my reading and the way I approach my own feminism. Being able to share this with the members of my committee has been powerful and rewarding. I’m delighted to continue my term as a Bloomer, and if you’re interested–great! Applications for the 2020 committee are currently open. Apply here before midnight Pacific on Friday, February 15.

Sunday Reflections: Raising Daughters & the Fight for Full Bodily Autonomy

Trigger Warning: Pregnancy Loss and Abortion are Discussed in this Post

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I knew the day that I began teaching my 3-year-old daughter how to dial 911 that I would have an abortion.

I had just gotten out of the emergency room, again. After spending another night receiving fluids, again.

My blood pressure was abysmally low, my resting heart rate too fast.

I would later learn that I was in a state of what they call metabolic acidosis. I was, quite literally, dying.

So I barricaded the stairs. I made sure to never turn on the stove or oven. I double and triple checked that I had locked all the doors. And I laid on the couch and prayed that if I was going to die – and I was – that it happened when my husband was home so that my daughter would be safe.

Coming home from the hospital that day, I asked my husband, “what if I have to terminate this pregnancy?” He sighed the biggest sigh of relief, “I didn’t know how to bring it up,” he mentioned.

Here we were, teenaged sweethearts who had been baptized together in the church. Had attended a Christian college together. Served in youth ministry together. We were in our early 30s, already parents to a very much loved child, and we were discussing terminating a pregnancy.

The next day was another day, and another day to the emergency room. I was subjected to a 45 minute ultrasound because as the tech said, they couldn’t find “something”. They didn’t come out and say it, but it was the heartbeat. They couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat.

So the next day we went and saw a different ob/gyn. This one we knew would terminate the pregnancy if we needed them to. And again, there was no heartbeat. My pregnancy should have measured 9 ½ weeks and there should have been a heartbeat, but it measured at 6 ½ weeks and he said a heartbeat would be iffy at that time. We explained to him that no, 3 weeks – and 2 hospital stays earlier – we had in fact measured 6 ½ weeks and heart a slow and unhealthy but definitely present heartbeat.

It was then that we were presented with 2 options: We could wait 24 hours and come back the next day to terminate what appeared to be a failing pregnancy–if I survived the next 24 hours and didn’t need to go back to the ER, that is. Or we could wait another week or two, have a follow up ultrasound and if there was still no heartbeat, it would be declared a miscarriage. The truth was, as he pointed out, that I would not survive another week or two. I need an abortion and I needed it quickly.

Twenty-four hours later we returned to terminate the pregnancy. We walked among 3 protestors who held signs telling us we were going to hell and that we should ask to hear our baby’s heartbeat. What those protestors didn’t know is that we had heard our baby’s heartbeat, and then we didn’t. We grieved our loss, but we also knew that factually we were now trying to save the only life we could really save at this point – mine.

In the days following my abortion that wasn’t technically an abortion though my medical records will always show that it was, I had one of my most spiritual moments ever. This is the moment that I hang on to whenever I begin to doubt or question my faith. I laid on my bedroom floor and cried. Then I had what I can only call a vision of the Lord, He came to me and in it, I saw Jesus kneeling beside me with his hands cupped under my face. He held them there gently and caught my failing tears as I wept, and I felt the presence of the Lord in a way that never have before or since.

Because abortion is legal in the United States, I am alive and am now the mother to two daughters. My second daughter is here only because I was kept alive through IVs and aggressive treatment by a high risk doctor. My husband got up in the middle of the night to change out fluids, inserting a needle full of medicine into each bag to help keep me alive. And even in the course of that pregnancy, the frequency and ferocity of my vomiting was so fierce that the placenta began to separate from my uterine wall and this child almost did not make it as well.

The pregnancy disease that I have is known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Recent research indicates that it is genetic. So I look at my two daughters and know, if they get pregnant there is a chance that these same things will happen to them. Pregnancy may be a death sentence for them.

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I am alive today, my second daughter is alive today, my first daughter has a mother today, because I was able to make the personal medical decisions I needed to make quickly. I continue to be alive today because I can take steps necessary to never get pregnant again. I have the health insurance I need to cover the care I need to keep myself from having any more children because I would not survive another pregnancy. There are many other HG sufferers like me out there. There are many other pregnancy complications besides HG. And soon, there may be many people who are uninsured and unable to access the health care they need or make the medical decisions they need to make.

Even if they remain celibate until marriage and jump through every hoop that those with conservative religious beliefs believe that they must, my daughters will still need affordable access to medical care and contraception to help plan and yes, prevent, pregnancy in order to keep themselves alive. And should the extreme scenario happen to them, they may need to be able to make the quick and timely decision to terminate a medically complicated pregnancy in order to survive. I want all those medical options to be available to them because I love them.

This is the story of how I became a pro-choice Christian. Yes, it took a personal experience to make me understand how dangerous and complicated and how very not black and white pregnancy can be. I was naïve and judgmental and full of the self-satisfied assurance that the self-righteous often have that they are always right and they know all the answers. I knew all the answers, too. Until I didn’t.

Further research has led me to understand that outlawing abortion doesn’t stop abortion, it just makes abortion more deadly. However, quality sex education, access to affordable contraception, access to health care and roads out of poverty significantly reduce the reasons that people seek out abortion. They also help provide a better quality of life for those babies that are being brought into this world. If we want to really tackle the issue of abortion, these are the areas that we need to invest in.

This is my family. They are a blessing. I try hard every day to guard these girls, my heart, from the toxic messaging of our culture.

Every day I look at my daughters and pray. I pray that they will continue to have the right to make the choices they need to make about their bodies and for their health. It is not guaranteed that they will have Hyperemesis Gravidarum, but it is a very real possibility because they are my daughters. I want them to be able to make the decisions they need to with their doctors make the right choices for their health.


I wrote this essay shortly after the election in 2016. My husband and I fought long and hard through three very difficult pregnancies to bring our two much loved children into this world. It nearly bankrupted us because it was hard for us to get good answers and good medical care. It nearly killed me, twice. And we made decisions that we never contemplated having to make when we began our life together as a married couple trying to start a family.

13 years ago today, in the year 2006, I had an abortion. It saved my life.

My first two pregnancies I had one doctor who apparently knew I suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum; It is written in my medical records, though he never discussed it with either my husband or I. In my second pregnancy, the last one in which we would use him as our doctor, I was, according to the various ER records we gathered, quite literally dying. At one point I was hospitalized for a short stay and my resting heart rate was 160 and my blood pressure was 60 something over 37. After being admitted from the ER and placed into the maternity ward for a few nights, at no time did any of the doctors on that floor perform an ultrasound. If they had, we would have learned a full two weeks earlier than our termination that the baby had already passed away. Instead, I suffered another two weeks, inching every moment even closer to death.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is extreme nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. It is not morning sickness. In each of my pregnancies I vomited 24 hours a day for the entire pregnancy. Some days I vomited more than 100 times. I often slept on the bathroom floor because there was no point in trying to go to bed. I had to go to the ER frequently because I suffered from dehydration and the various things that happen when your body has no food or fluids. In my second pregnancy, I lost 40 pounds in about a week and my body began to break down in a process that my medical records calls metabolic acidosis.

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In my third and final pregnancy, I was under the care of a new high risk doctor. The moment I tested positive, I was put on home healthcare. I was kept hydrated and alive with home IV therapy. The Mr. set his alarm clock throughout the night and woke up around the clock to put new IV fluid bags in my IV line. I took a cocktail of three drugs that they give cancer patients taking chemotherapy to try and stave off the vomiting. The frequency and fierceness of my vomiting was so severe that the placenta began at one point to separate from my uterine wall. I was put on bed rest and told to stop throwing up.

For more information about Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) please visit www.helpher.org

On February 3, 2006, I walked into the office of an ob/gyn who performed abortions and terminated my second pregnancy. Although we had every reason to believe that our baby was already dead inside me, the laws of the land required us to seek out an abortion because I could not wait the necessary time frame to confirm this fact; I would not survive.

I am grateful that I got to make that choice for myself and that I have been here to see my teenage daughter grow into the amazing young woman that she is today. I am grateful as well that I got to give birth to my second daughter and see her becoming the amazing young woman that she is today. I am only here, my second child is only here, because I was legally able to make the medical decisions I needed to make for myself. Pregnancy still kills women in multiple ways. In fact, the United States has a very high maternal mortality rate for an industrialized nation.

There are known and proven ways to decrease abortion rates. These ways include providing everyone access to comprehensive sex education, providing access to affordable birth control, providing affordable access to prenatal and general health care, raising women and children out of poverty, supporting education, providing access to affordable daycare, creating a culture that provides living wages and work/life balance. We can decrease abortion rates while still allowing women full body autonomy and the right to make their own medical decisions.

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Hyperemesis Gravidarum research indicates that HG is genetic. I have two daughters. Their ability to make the health care decisions that are right for them is imperative to me. Their lives may literally depend on it.

Feminist AF Fashions and the YA Characters That Rock Them

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For a long time, I bought into the lie that a feminist couldn’t be girly or care too much about fashion. I believed that in order to be a feminist, you had to reject all things associated with what it traditionally meant to be female. Pink and tutus, for example, were straight out. By over time, I learned that this belief was not, in fact, feminist. This is one of the reasons why when I was designing the Feminist AF graphic, I purposely choose to use an image of a red sequined background. Young feminist Karen would have rejected anything with glitter or sequins and pearls or whatever as not feminist. Young feminist Karen would have been wrong. I love the image so much that I had a cell phone case made out of it, which is what I now proudly carry. (Ordered via Snapfish)

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The Teen models my TLT Feminist AF phone case

Meanwhile, The Teen found her own way to turn her phone into a Feminist AF fashion statement. Be sure to check out how she organized her apps.

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Today, guest poster Lisa Krok is talking with us about Feminist AF fashion statements and then she shares some books featuring YA characters that rock all kinds of fashion. Because feminist and fashion can go together and we can rock it!


 

While teens don’t have Cinna on hand to style them like the Girl on Fire, many choices are out there to cover feminist fashionistas from head to toe. Starting at the top, teens can keep warm and in vogue with this handmade beanie, found on Etsy. Alternatively, for a golden glam look, try David and Young’s feminist baseball cap, found on Poshmark.

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https://www.etsy.com/listing/504546661/feminist-black-beanie-hat-white-text

https://poshmark.com/listing/Baseball-Feminist-hat-

What better way to accent your feminist cap than with some badass earrings!  Author Hillary Monahan creates fun and funky jewelry choices with feminist options featured in her Etsy shop.

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https://www.etsy.com/shop/HillsPeculiarities

Up next, some trendy t-shirts to flaunt girl power.  Amazon.com hosts a plethora of listings from a variety of sellers.  One of the best ways to promote feminism is of course to support and empower each other, and resist those who do not.   www.amazon.com

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Your feet need some love, too. Try these lively socks that are just a sampling of many choices from Blue Q  https://www.blueq.com/socks/ .

femsocksLast but not least, teens need the most important accessory of all: an awesome book! Feminist AF Fashionistas come in a wide array of forms and these characters (and books) prove it:

A Flair for Glam

Hair, body, face…and the DRESS!

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Tough as Nails

Rock some Timbs like Bri,  shoot purple lightning from your hands, or wear a snake as jewelry.

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Fashion Has No Limitations

All genders, all sizes, all cultures, and all sexual orientations.

femmultiEditor’s Note: You can also teach teens to make their own feminist fashion statements, so look for an upcoming post where I share with you just how you can do this.

Meet Our Guest Poster

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-Lisa Krok is a Feminist AF Ravenclaw, library manager, and 2019 and 2018 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers committee member. She is counting the days until we have a female POTUS. Lisa can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.