Friday, April 8, 2016

Let's Talk About PERIODS (in YA)

Hi loves! It's Hannah! Did you forget about me?! Haha. Oh, it's been so long since I've spoken to you all, and I'm so sorry. These past few months have been absolutely N U T S, and I've fallen a bit behind on reading and writing reviews. However, I am back, and I have some super fun posts that I'm working on for OTBF, so keep a watch on this space for fun things to come! But anyway, enough about me; let's get on to the actual post, k? 

want to start off this post by saying that YA is a genre that I am fiercely passionate about. I love YA, and I know that I always will. It played such an important role in my formative years, and holds a very special place in my heart. But, with that said, I have a big, big problem with YA. 

And that problem is the topic of sex. 

Now, I am fully aware that I am not the first to discuss this. Emma of EmmaBooks on YouTube has made a wonderful video discussing this problem, as have many others. But I wanted to add my two-sense into this ongoing discussion, because I'm honestly fed up with the way that sex is portrayed in YA. 

When I say sex, this doesn't just refer to sexual intercourse between two (or sometimes three) characters. This refers to everything under that umbrella, from safe sex practices, to the concept of virginity, and even periods. All concepts that are virtually nonexistent in the YA genre. 

Which, if you ask me, is completely ridiculous. 

Let's look at YA by its literal definition: for a book to be considered YA, its protagonist has to be between the ages of 15-18. And, as I'm sure we all know from experience, a lot of big things happen during that age range. Puberty, high school, etc. A lot of big changes are made, and sometimes, these changes can be quite scary. And for a lot of people, YA books have become a way for people to understand themselves better, and understand what's going on with not only themselves, but the world around the,  To be able to connect to characters their own age, going through experiences similar to what they are. Teenagers turn to YA to find not only an escape, but an understanding. 

But how does the latter work when so many YA novels-the majority, actually- omit real-life experiences and situations from their text? 

Like mentioned above, there are so many different topics I could get into with this post. And maybe I'll cover all of them in a series of posts one day. But for now, I'm going to stick to one topic. And for this post, let's start with periods. 

Now, I got mine at a very young age, but I know that most girls get theirs around or during the YA "character timeframe". And in the beginning, it's quite scary! It's a confusing thing to go through, with the millions of things to learn and think about. Not to mention, coping with the intense pain and excess emotions that usually accompany it. 

As I write this post, I'm looking at my bookshelf, which has roughly 170 books on it, about 150 of which are YA. Out of those 150, 109 feature a female as the main protagonist. And, out of the 109, only two (yes, TWO) have any reference to periods. 

I may not be the best at math, but that is an INCREDIBLY small percentage. And what I want to know is why. Why is it that all 109 of these books are told from the perspective/focused on a young girl between the ages of 15-18, yet only two of them talk about one of the biggest "milestones" for a girl? 

Let's take a look at passages from both of these books where periods are mentioned: 

“I’m not ill like that,” she groaned. He sat her on the bed, peeling back the blanket. A servant entered, frowning at the mess on the floor, and shouted for help.
“Then in what way?”
“I, uh …” Her face was so hot she thought it would melt onto the floor. Oh, you idiot! “My monthly cycles finally came back.”
His face suddenly matched hers and he stepped away, dragging a hand through his short brown hair. “I—if … Then I’ll take my leave,” he stammered, and bowed. Celaena raised an eyebrow, and then, despite herself, smiled as he left the room as quickly as his feet could go without running, tripping slightly in the doorway as he staggered into the rooms beyond.
Celaena looked at the servants cleaning. “I’m so sorry,” she started, but they waved her off. Embarrassed and aching, the assassin climbed farther onto her bed and nestled beneath the covers, hoping sleep would soon come.
But sleep wouldn’t soon come, and a while later, the door opened again, and someone laughed. “I intercepted Chaol, and he informed me of your ‘condition.’ You’d think a man in his position wouldn’t be so squeamish, especially after examining all of those corpses.”
Celaena opened an eye and frowned as Dorian sat on her bed. “I’m in a state of absolute agony and I can’t be bothered.”

Excerpt From: Sarah J. Maas. “Throne of Glass.” 

And, a more brief mention: 

“Tampons. I’m constantly worrying about my stash and if I’ll be able to find more.”

Excerpt From: Rick Yancey. "The 5th Wave." 

When I read the scene from THRONE OF GLASS, I wasn't surprised. Sarah Maas has never been shy about keeping it real in terms of sex, periods, and the human body in general (I mean, just look those steamy scenes from  A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES). It made sense to me that she'd add something as simple as this to her debut novel. Does it detract from the novel at all? Absolutely not! Celaena is still a kick-butt assassin with a killer wardrobe and even more killer fighting skills, but she, like most girls, gets her period. And it's just as painful and not fun for her as it is for everyone else. 

Then we have the more quick mention of periods from THE 5TH WAVE, which, might I mention, is written by a male. Yes, a male author made sure to include that his alien-slaying, world-saving protagonist Cassie got her period. Come on lady authors, we need to step it up! Not that there is anything wrong with this, but why are male authors tackling this issue before we are? Males are putting in the time and effort to research about periods just to include a little snippet in their books, while we as women- who, quite frankly, don't need to do any research about this subject matter- are totally leaving it out! 

I mean, I don't know about you, but I would've loved to see a scene in THE HUNGER GAMES where Katniss has to deal with her period in the arena. Fight to the death over a box of tampons? Why not! Or maybe in TWILIGHT. What happens when a girl is surrounded by bloodthirsty vampires and on her period? 

Of course, these are such basic scenarios, but what I'm trying to get at is that mentioning periods in YA doesn't need to be this big ordeal. Okay, maybe the fight to the death would be a little more than a passing reference...but still! Big or small, it doesn't matter what shape or size these references come in, as long as they're there. Because I guarantee somewhere, some teenage girl has read THRONE OF GLASS and felt comfort in the fact that Celaena got terrible menstrual cramps just like her. Whether it was intentional on Maas' part or not to include that scene, I can guarantee that it helped someone understand their body just a little bit more. And I believe that that is a very important thing. 

In a world where a woman's body seems to get more over-sexualized and more abused (both physically and metaphorically) by the day, it can be hard for women to find comfort or pride within the very attributes that make them a female. 

And sure, no girl is really proud of their period. It's not fun. It's not cute. It doesn't make you feel good. But it's a major stepping stone in a woman's life. And it's something that deserves proper recognition because it affects so many people every single day. 

What do you all think, should there be more period talk in YA? Let me know! 


  1. YES YES YES! Prech it, Hannah! I wholeheartedly think that YA novels should contain more references to periods. How does an author even write about a young girl and not think about her having a period? Especially if it's a contemporary. I think it's ironic how both your examples are from a fantasy book and a sci-fi book.
    I don't know about anybody else, but I kind of like bringing up periods around guys because I like making them squirm, hahaha. Great post!! :)

    1. Hi Mariah! I completely agree with you! And I agree, contemporaries should definitely make sure to include periods. I'm surprised nobody has already.

      Thank you for commenting, and for the sweet words, darling!! Xo

  2. Interesting post, I've always wondered how they were supposed to deal with periods especially in dystopian and post apocalyptic worlds.
    Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi also mentions this topic, it was the book that came to mind when I read the title of your post on twitter.

    1. Hi Kris! I've always wondered about at too. Ooh, I'll have to check out Under the Never Sky. I haven't read it! Thanks for the recommendation, and for commenting, love!

  3. Yes, yes, yes! I completely agree with all of the above! Just basic talking about periods and pregnancy prevention in YA books would be so helpful for so many girl (and boys!) who don't get those conversations at home or at school. These are basic human functions, guys. It's time to normalize them! Also, the only book I can think of that mentions periods other than the 2 you mentioned is Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi. It's mentioned when the main character ventures outside of her dome-d exist and gets her period for the first time because she is no longer on medication to suppress it. And the main dude, Perry, gives her clothes and talks her through it! I wish more books had small scenes like this.

    1. Hi! Yes, I 100% agree with that!! Another person mentioned Under the Mever Sky too, but as I was telling them, I haven't read it yet. I'll definitely have to check it out though, especially for this reason!! I wish more books had these scenes, too. :( hopefully we can change that. Thanks for commenting, love!

  4. Absolute TRUTH. Especially the Twilight part. I mean, it's not so bad! The only time I've ever seen it mentioned (sort-of) was in Robin Reul's My Kind of Crazy & pads are used to exaggerate a conversation. ESPECIALLY in Contemporaries. And I've only JUST seen mention of acne and that was in a historical YA. Sigh.

  5. Another REALLY good book for not only talking about a girl getting her period (again in a dystopia) and the taboo that comes with it but about feminism and the current culture is Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neil.