They Are Not All Wolves: Menstruation, Young Adult Fiction and Nuancing the Teenage Boy

Article Summary by Jemma Walton

Literary depictions of menstruation are scarce, despite the fierce interest which accompanied the 1970 publication of Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret; a Young Adult novel that ends with the young female protagonist thanking God for the arrival of her first period. However, an intensification in menstrual activism across the globe – which culminated in 2015 being dubbed ‘the year the period went public’—led to increased representations of menses in popular culture. This paper analyses two Young Adult novels, Lucy Cuthew’s Blood Moon (2020) and Elana K. Arnold’s Red Hood (2020) which arguably developed out of that moment. The essay contends that both texts are laudable in two particular ways: they depict complex heroines combating instances of the kinds of extreme misogyny which are becoming increasingly frequent within Western society. The narratives both show, in a detailed, honest and refreshingly celebratory manner, teenage girls experiencing the physical reality of menstruation. However, the male characters of both narratives tend towards being either definitively good or bad, if not utterly malevolent. As a result, ‘They Are Not All Wolves’ highlights the need for the development of affirmative feminist studies, which would foster more nuanced literary representations of young males – and address the challenges of building a more equitable world, thereby responding to some of the motivating concerns of Red Hood and Blood Moon.


Read the full article on the Medical Humanities journal website.

Cover of Blood Moon Cover of Red Hood









Portrait of Gemma WaltonJemma Walton is a PhD student at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research focuses on literary representations of reproduction, particularly surrogacy. She is co-organiser of interdisciplinary repro-scholar network Broadly Conceived a events officer of the Contemporary Women’s Writing Association.

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