Code Red

By Joy McCullough
Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2023
233 pages

Code Red cover
Code Red by Joy McCullough


Ages 10-13

Eden (white) is struggling to find her middle school footing after an injury ended the gymnastics career that once consumed her life. Although Eden is proud of her mom’s rags-to-riches story as the founder and CEO of a menstrual products company, she’s dismayed when her mom is invited to give a talk on Career Day and humiliated by the unpredictable period jokes and teasing that ensue. After a hallway altercation with a bully, Eden finds herself in the principal’s office along with Mirabel (Guatemalan American), a classmate who came to her defense. Suspended for accidentally injuring the boy, the girls end up spending time together at Casa Esperanza, a food bank/community resource center run Mirabel’s mother, Silvia. While there, Eden’s eyes are opened to the issues of poverty, homelessness, and Seattle city dynamics related to corporate growth. Eden’s insights further coalesce after she discovers firsthand the importance of menstrual product accessibility. Her budding friendship with Mirabel quickly expands to include Mirabel’s sisters, friends, and community activists. Motivated to make a difference, Eden becomes involved in sewing fabric menstrual pads and a political campaign to tax corporations so that free period products can be made available in schools while hiding these activities from her increasingly disapproving mother, from whom she feels more and more disconnected. This poignant, passionate novel explores friendship, family, activism, self-discovery, and the challenge of being true to oneself. ©2023 Cooperative Children’s Book Center