Over the last year or so I’ve really developed an appreciation of graphic novels. To be completely honest, I didn’t really “get” graphic novels when I initially discovered them a few years ago. They looked more like comic books than novels and they were packed with illustrations and very little text compared to other middle grade and YA novels. But I’ve come to discover the value of graphic novels on multiple levels.
The fact that graphic novels have less text doesn’t make them any less of a book. In fact, some reluctant or struggling readers who might not pick up a traditional middle grade or YA novel might opt for a graphic novel instead. This is wonderful because rather than missing out on the book altogether, these reluctant or struggling readers can still follow the plot, utilizing the images where the text proves challenging. This is huge because the graphics allow these readers to absorb and learn from the stories and engage in active discussion with friends, classmates, and teachers. Graphic novels also offer the added bonus of visual storytelling. You know that saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”? Well, with a graphic novel, the pictures are many and the words are few because the images so beautifully illustrate the characters’ emotions, motives, struggles, and victories.
My 2020 reading challenge is to read 50 books, and I plan to add more graphic novels to my reading list. I can’t wait to discover more new graphic novel authors and illustrators!
Today, I’ll be reviewing a very timely new graphic novel, Go With The Flow by Lily Williams & Karen Schneemann.
So what is Go with the Flow about? Well, according to the blurb on the cover: “A friendship story. Period.”
Go with the Flow is about three friends in high school: Christine, Brit, and Abby. The trio adds a fourth to their group, new girl Sasha, when they befriend her one day in the hallway. Sasha has unknowingly started her first period. While wearing white pants. At school. In front of everyone. And she doesn’t know why people are staring, pointing, and laughing until the three girls lead Sasha to the bathroom and help her out. It’s basically every adolescent girl’s worst nightmare.
Poor Sasha has already fallen prey to bullies and feels like an outcast in her new school. Now this. But luckily for her, Christine, Brit, and Abby offer her more than pads and a sweater to wrap around her waist. They offer her friendship.
The foursome soon become inseparable and begin tackling important issues, particularly the lack of sanitary items in their high school. None of the bathroom tampon or maxi pad machines are ever stocked, and even if they were, they cost 50 cents each. The principal claims the school doesn’t have enough funds to stock supplies for the girls’ “issues.” Meanwhile, the boys’ football team receives new uniforms and new equipment. The girls decide to fight for their humanitarian rights. Abby takes the lead, utilizing her blog, The Mean Magenta, to rally support.
I loved this story of friendship, solidarity, and sisterhood. I also love the way this book promotes open discussion of periods. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. As Abby points out, half of their school menstruates. Maybe it’s time we have some dialogue around this and ensure that basic humanitarian needs of all students at all income levels in all areas are met. I think tweens and teens will like this book, but I also think it will be appreciated and embraced by adults as well.
The graphics in this novel are just perfect. Everything is appropriately tinted in a shade of red or pink. The girls’ personalities are expertly portrayed through facial expressions and body language. And there are some scenes that just resonate better as an image. Reading about Sasha getting her period all over white pants in front of everyone is one thing. But actually seeing the confusion and embarrassment on her face and tears in her eyes evokes a whole new sense of empathy – empathy that’s needed if we’re ever going to stop treating those who are menstruating like they’ve done something wrong or committed some grave offense.
I’d love to see this book in tween and teen discussion groups, classrooms, and maybe even as part of health classes. Important period-related health issues like endometriosis and migraines are discussed, among others, in the book. In short, this is a long overdue book. Everyone should read it. Period.