Sunday, April 03, 2022

Grow Up, Tahlia Wilkins

Evans, Karina. Grow Up, Tahlia Wilkins
April 19th 2022 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

A lot can happen in the space of a couple of days, and when Tahlia's mother goes out of town for a business conference, leaving Tahlia at home with her father and older twin brothers on the last day of school, things go badly wrong. Tahlia gets her period for the first time and is ill-prepared, especially since she has Noah's pool party to attend! With the help of her best friend, Lily, she manages to get to a local store to buy tampons, but has a lot of trouble using them and soon needs more, so she "borrows" some by sneaking into a teen neighbor's bathroom. She doesn't want her dad to know, so when she has a leak while out to dinner with both Lily and Noah's families, she is mortified, and again relies on her friend to help her out. Lily's mother is eight months pregnant and rather preoccupied, so the girls take it upon themselves to spill a virgin margarita down Tahlia's front to distract from the other stain, and end up in the fountain outside the restaurant trying to further obscure things. Feeling fairly confident at Noah's party, Tahlia runs into Jackie, who used to be friends with her and Lily, but started to act more mature and distanced herself from them. She is friendly at the party, but warns Tahlia that she should change her tampon every hour to avoid Toxic Shock Syndrome. This panics Tahlia, but it's Lily's surprise announcement that crushes Tahlia's spirit and has her calling her father to pick her up from the party. Luckily, her dad comes through with a lot more support than she would have imagined, and when her mother returns, Tahlia is further assured that everything will work out for the best. 

If you believe my fourth grade diary, topics revolving around puberty are really interesting to middle grade readers. Tahlia and her long suffering (and somewhat younger acting) friend Lily navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of first periods, boy-girl parties, and changes in friendship with humor and a positive attitude. They are going into eighth grade, which will make their adventures very appealing to a variety of readers who might be facing the same issues or looking forward to the day when they do. 

It was interesting that while Tahlia was very sure at first that she would be mortified to tell her father, he eventually was a big help, and made her feel more comfortable telling him what she needed. This is a great message whose time has really come. 

The fact that the main action of this book took place in just two days was interesting; we pick up the story again after the summer has passed and Tahlia is starting eighth grade, but most of what transpires is very localized. This heightens the emotions and allows for a deep dive into Tahlia's struggles with feminine protection. I especially loved the girls' encounter with an older woman who sympathizes with them but also opines that they are lucky they don't have to deal with sanitary belts! Hopefully, these details will help readers better prepare so that they never have to be in Tahlia's difficult circumstances.

Readers who found Harrington's Revenge of the Red Club and Williams' graphic novel Go With the Flow instructive will appreciate Tahlia's efforts in dealing with her period. This would make a great gift for a younger girl, perhaps accompanied by an informative fiction book such as Own Your Period: A Fact-filled Guide to Period Positivity by Chella Quint and Giovana Medeiros or at least a pamphlet and some menstrual hygiene products so they aren't caught in Tahlia's predicament. 

It did seem odd that Tahlia's mother hadn't talked to her more about this or stocked supplies and left information on how to use them. It also seemed unlikely that a woman store clerk would get on the loud speaker to do a price check on tampons, or that Lily's mother couldn't have been consulted. Of course, if Tahlia had had this support, the story wouldn't have existed, so there's some artistic license at play.Ms. Yingling

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