FIERCELY FICTIONAL celebrates fierce, inspiring fictional girls we know you’ll love. To us, “fierce” isn’t just about slaying dragons or solving mysteries. It’s about breaking free from your comfort zone, discovering your confidence, fighting for what you believe in, & discovering your emotional strength. Any girl can shine bright & be fierce, & in this series, we’ll connect you with a new fiercely fictional character every month!

FIERCELY FICTIONAL is back, and it’s our first ever double character feature! This month, we’re spotlighting best friends and changemakers Helen Wells and Gracie Sasso in Free Period, a hilarious, heartwarming, and empowering new read by Ali Terese.

Helen and Gracie are besties who LIVE for a prank. This math whiz and crafty makeup artist might seem like total opposites, but when they come together, it’s not just friendship magic – their minds are capable of anything, like crafting the perfect schemes! They thrive on chaos in all the best ways.

But when their latest prank lands them in trouble AGAIN, they’re sentenced to join the school’s Community Action Club in hopes of encouraging them to care about something that matters. Their plan to do as little as possible is halted when their nemesis, popular and perfect advocate Madison, proposes a period equity campaign. The girls aren’t exactly into it, but when Helen has a period mishap of her own, it empowers her and Gracie to take control and join the fight for maxi pads stocked in all the school bathrooms for all students who menstruate.

Fighting for period equity isn’t exactly what they planned for, but it turns out they might be the perfect pair for the job. Helen and Madison quickly take the school by storm, finding ways to make advocacy fun and impactful in the way they know best. Through funky crafts, bold baked goods, and schemes that make a statement. Oh, and glitter. Lots of glitter!

Free Period:

Book cover for Free Period by Ali Terese

Helen and Gracie are pranking their way through middle school when a stinky stunt lands them in the front office — again. Because nothing else has curbed their chaos, the principal orders the best friends to do the unthinkable: care about something. So they join the school’s Community Action Club with plans to do as little as humanly possible.

But when Helen is caught unprepared by an early period and bleeds through her pants — they were gold lamé! — the girls take over the club’s campaign for maxi pads in bathrooms for all students who menstruate. In the name of period equity, the two friends use everything from over-the-top baked goods to glitter gluing for change. But nothing can prepare them for a clueless school board (ew), an annoying little sister (ugh), and crushes (oh my!).

As Helen and Gracie find themselves closer to change and in deeper trouble than ever before, they must decide if they care enough to keep going . . . even if it costs them their friendship.

Free Period
AUTHOR: Ali Terese
PUBLISHER: Scholastic Press
DATE: March 5, 2024

Their actions are shaking up the status quo in the halls, but Madison isn’t into their wild methods, and the school board doesn’t exactly love the idea of straying from the norm. Pair that with annoying little sisters, first crushes, and middle school mayhem, Helen and Gracie find themselves in more trouble than ever. Is this a fight worth continuing even if it threatens their friendship?

Helen and Gracie are fierce in so many ways that it’s hard for us to pin down our favorite. They’re the best kind of friends, the kind who grow together even in the face of hard stuff. They listen to each other and respect each other’s differences. They’re amazing together but stand tall on their own, and they have brilliantly creative minds and a passion for activism.

If you’re asking us, Free Period is a must-read. It’s a heartfelt and inspiring story led by two prank queens with an affinity for fart jokes with a supremely important message every kid should care about – period equity. It’ll leave you longing to be a part of their friend group and fired up to make waves at your own school.

We’re excited to share that Free Period author Ali Terese is here sharing a peek between the pages of this new read and all the reasons Helen and Gracie are totally fierce!

Five Reasons Helen Wells and Gracie Sasso are Totally Fierce:

Graphic that reads "Surprising Connections"

Helen learns to work best with the person she likes least:

Things are bad when Helen and Gracie are ordered to care about something and join the school’s Community Action Club. Things are downright catastrophic when these chaos monsters realize it is run by their archnemesis Madison, perfect student, athlete, and advocate. But sometimes the worst people have the best ideas—like fighting for maxi-pads in all school bathrooms for all students who menstruate—and sometimes they even turn out to be not-quite-the-absolute-worst-but-still-beyond-annoying. Ugh.

By finding common, if incredibly rocky, ground, Helen and Madison learn that you can work with someone who is totally different from you to fight for a common good, and that combining what is unique about each of them means they can accomplish something that would have been unimaginable on their own.

Graphic that reads "Make Change Fun"

Helen and Gracie bring on big fun to create big change:

A stinky prank gone horribly wrong is what gets Helen and Gracie into trouble in the first place, but their instincts for fun are also what help them draw other kids to the fight for period equity and eradicating period shame.

Sometimes people can zone out on facts and figures, but can you really ignore a maxi-pad cupcake that feels like it’s having a period all over you? While Helen does recreational math to prove the district can pay for pads and Gracie researches who the people in power listen to, they get students excited for change and willing to open up about their experiences with laugh-out-loud banter, wildly weird crafts, and delightfully disgusting desserts.

These fierce girls know advocacy doesn’t have to be fancy or formal. It can be fun, and everyone already has something special about them that they can use to create change.

Graphic that reads "Embraces Big Feelings"

Gracie embraces her feelings as she starts to take herself seriously:

Gracie faces something a lot of middle schoolers come up against—she’s ready to grow and change, but her parents are stuck in the same old story they’ve created around her. How can you evolve and show you’re committed to something when your adults are bringing up unfinished art projects from when you were seven?

Even when it looks like her friendships and the period products plan are doomed, Gracie isn’t willing to put her feelings in a box. She embraces them to figure out how to bring everyone together in her own way—the Gracie Way: “Just because I say things in glitter and rainbows and makeup and fart jokes and cupcakes doesn’t mean those things I say matter less than what other people put in spreadsheets. Which, by the way, is a truly weird word.”

We’re not all going to be star students (shudder) or on student council (whatever comes after shudder), but that doesn’t mean we don’t all matter. No one is alone in the quest for menstrual care, and the truly gifted know that feelings are just as important as facts. And fart jokes. Never give up fart jokes.

Graphic that reads "Equity is Inclusive"

Helen and Gracie include everyone in the quest for equity:

Gracie could talk your ear off all day about her period. Helen doesn’t think anyone is entitled to the tale of her bloody pants. They have totally different comfort levels discussing menstruation, and yet they both help create the change. These fierce girls know that there is room for everyone in fighting for period justice because everyone is harmed if even one student misses class because they don’t have a pad. That includes kids who will never have a period themselves. Periods aren’t a “girl” issue. They’re a human rights issue for all of us in society to address.

The fierce kids in the Community Action Club challenge their classmates with a big question: how would our school need to change so that students with periods have the same access to education as students without periods?

Graphic that reads "Growth Through Change"

Their friendship grows when the going gets tough:

A mean math maven and a baking makeover artist might not seem like the likeliest of friends, but Helen and Gracie are so close because they see the hope and heart in each other better than anyone else in the world. They also know firsthand that friendships aren’t set or static. As big changes loom with high school on the horizon and how they’re growing as people, they don’t go through a bestie breakup.

Instead, Helen and Gracie find new ways to connect and support each other in the fierce girls they’re growing into. Oh goodness, is my face raining? Is that a little too schmaltzy even for me? Quick, someone get me a Tampretzel to help me through these big feelings!

📚Need another fierce read to add to your shelf after Free Period? Catch up on our FIERCELY FICTIONAL series!

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