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Dress Coded

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In this debut middle-grade girl-power friendship story, an eighth grader starts a podcast to protest the unfair dress code enforcement at her middle school and sparks a rebellion.

Molly Frost is FED UP...

Because Olivia was yelled at for wearing a tank top when she had to keep her sweatshirt wrapped around her waist.

Because Liza got dress coded and Molly didn't, even though they were wearing the exact same outfit.

Because when Jessica was pulled over by the principal and missed a math quiz, her teacher gave her an F.

Because it's impossible to find shorts that are longer than her fingertips.

Because girls' bodies are not a distraction.

Because middle school is hard enough.

And so Molly starts a podcast where girls can tell their stories, and soon her small rebellion swells into a revolution. Because now the girls are standing up for what's right, and they're not backing down.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published July 7, 2020

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Carrie Firestone

4 books259 followers

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 819 reviews
Profile Image for Nev.
995 reviews126 followers
September 3, 2020
I thought that the main story about how girls in middle school are unfairly targeted for dress code infractions was really impactful. It shows how young girls feel violated by the ways their bodies and clothes are being scrutinized, much of the time by adults. Seeing the characters all come together to try and bring about change was great.

HOWEVER, the subplot about the main character’s older brother being addicted to vaping was just so fucking ridiculous. It was like a melodramatic after school special that lacked any nuance. It was just so over the top that I feel like it cheapened the message the author was trying to get across. Like, I don’t think that underage kids should be vaping… but the way it was being written about in the book just made me laugh. The levels that it got to in the book seemed more appropriate for a story about hard drugs, not nicotine.

I’m just annoyed that this plotline was so heavily featured because in my eyes it really took away from the main dress code story. There was so much subtlety and powerful writing when it came to the girls and how they were impacted by the dress code. But the subplot just felt like a cheesy skit in a D.A.R.E. class where they try to convince you that you’re constantly going to be running into random people in trench coats who try to give you drugs in an alley.
Profile Image for Kristin.
1,097 reviews30 followers
April 27, 2020
**I received this eARC from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.**

The gist of this story is that 8th grader Molly Frost begins a podcast called "Dress Coded" in response to how the dress code at her middle school is handled. There is a lot of discrimination and harassment taking place by students and faculty. How the students are treated, especially the females, is an important topic. However, there is a secondary story that develops and is just as equally important in my opinion: illegal use and sales of vaping products. In fact, Molly's high school-aged brother becomes addicted to vaping and gets into a lot of trouble for selling to middle school students.

Honestly, with two major conflicts/storylines taking place the message of the story became confusing to me. Molly's family is greatly affected by the actions of her brother, that her mother quits her job to be home more. The stress of her brother's actions on the family is very divisive and causes financial strain as well. Molly feels invisible in her family, is verbally abused by her brother, and is struggling with the sexism and sexual harassment taking place at school as well as her own confidence and body insecurity. This family is in crisis and it was bothersome to me that no one was intervening.

To top it off, there is a classmate with CP, another with TBI, and a third exploring her sexuality. There's a tornado warning (that none of the school faculty seems to know how to handle), a nearby school shooting, and community members who want to kill the bears living in the nearby woods. It felt at times that the author was trying too hard to make sure every student who picks up this book can see themself or relate to conflict in some way, shape, or form. For a while, I forgot I was reading a book about a discriminating dress code there were so many other things going on.

And, I'm really tired of reading middle-grade books full of horrible school officials. Why can't the adults trusted to support and educate these children ever be kind, caring, compassionate human beings? The behavior of the principal and dean of students in this story is disgusting and went on for years. Is it believable that not one single parent or teacher tried to go to the superintendent and/or board of education to get it stopped? The reader is to believe that the children were tormented at this school for years and no one listened to their cries for help. As an educator, this is problematic for me. Do every adult and student click in real life? Of course not. But I'd sure like to believe that most if not all, would not accept how the administration treated these students. I want kids to know that they can reach out to an adult when they have a problem or concern.

This book started strong for me, but quickly fell flat.
Profile Image for Alicia.
5,606 reviews103 followers
March 20, 2020
Focused on issues related to women's bodies, objectification, sexualization, puberty, and more this middle grade novel hits all of the right elements of a conversation to have with EVERYONE about policies-- who they're meant to hurt and who they're meant to help and always being able to have a conversation about them.

The main character of the story decides to take to the airwaves-- well podcast airwaves-- to openly discuss the dress code at their middle school that punished the entire grade (who was promised a fancy field trip if everyone followed the dress code) for one girl's dress, but that's not the whole story.

It's speaking up for oneself and others but also about how it takes a community to uplift. It's when others get involved and have constructive conversations that things actually get accomplished. While the elements of the story are sad/disheartening, the book is focused on building everyone up rather than cutting them down. A fab #WomensHistoryMonth read.
Profile Image for Evelyn Lily.
32 reviews39 followers
February 20, 2021
Recently, I have become more interested in Dress Codes, and how they oppress girls. I am writing a project about it for school, and I want to try to change my school's dress code too. Anyway, during my research, I came across this masterpiece. This book absolutely blew me away. I started it only a few hours ago, and read straight through my study hall. It all is so real, and raw. 100/10 would recommend.
December 29, 2019
I loved the unique style of this book and I believe its short chapters propelled my reading. I couldn't put it down. These 13-year-olds are the kind of people I wish I had been friends with. As a middle school English teacher I will be ordering multiple copies for my classroom library. Cheers to Carrie Firestone!!
Profile Image for Nicole Kronzer.
Author 2 books95 followers
November 15, 2019
I got an ARC of DRESS CODED, and I can't wait to give it to my daughter today when she gets home in a few minutes. It's so good and so powerful. I love the short chapters--they're almost like poetry. I love the timely issues. I love how complicated the characters are, and that there are good adults--one of the characters tells kids to "look to the light." It's such an important message for kids to hear that if one adult doesn't address the wrong, to keep looking for one who will. And that kids have so much more power than we let them think they do.

Both DRESS CODED and THE UNLIKELIES demonstrate what strength in numbers looks like. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
Profile Image for Beth.
Author 16 books137 followers
May 20, 2020
Brilliant! This book is a must read for all middle schoolers—and their families.
Profile Image for Phil J.
691 reviews52 followers
October 26, 2020
Comments from a teacher
I have spent most of the last 18 years teaching grades 6-8. Here's my experience:
* Last year, one of my seventh grade students missed 25 minutes of class because she was wearing a crop top which exposed her belly button. It did not cause any disruption to class, and it couldn't even be seen while she was sitting in her desk.
* It is completely believable to me that adults would be as dress code obsessed as they are in this book. Some people get really into enforcing the dress code.
* As a male teacher, it has been my long-standing policy to ignore dress code violations entirely. I don't want to be in the position of inspecting female students. If I was truly concerned, I would report it to a female teacher.
* There have been very few times that I was genuinely concerned about a dress code violation. These are times when a student was exposing a part of their body that it was illegal for me to be looking at. These situations usually had more to do with the student's posture than the clothes themselves. I typically deal with this problem by looking off to the side while the student adjusts position or prompting them to sit up straight.
* In my experience, the female admins and teachers tend to be more strict on dress code than the males. I have been in many meetings in which women debate the appropriateness of leggings and yoga pants while men glance around uncomfortably.

This is a real issue, and I'm glad this book was written. In fact, the dress code recommended by the book would be a radical change for any school that I have been a part of.

The book was very fun, and a very fast read. For a book that is, on a subconscious level, about sexual attraction, it was amazingly clean. I can see this book as appropriate for fourth, maybe third grade. I would hand it to my third grade daughter without hesitation.

Some people complain that the characters were barely developed and the vaping was blown out of proportion. That's accurate, but I think that also makes it accessible to a younger group of readers.

I really like this book in a way that's not totally objective. Recommended!
Profile Image for Rebecca.
2,939 reviews73 followers
September 10, 2021
This book made me angry.

It reminded me of middle school, where if I dressed like everyone else, I was dress coded (like all the other girls), and if I dressed to make myself comfortable (long skirts, high necked shirts), I was made fun of and bullied.

It reminded me of the school district I taught in, where girls weren't allowed to show "the three Bs" (boobs, butts, bellies), but I was reprimanded if I called out a boy for not wearing a shirt during an outdoor class on a hot day.

It reminded me of how all of us female teachers refused to reprimand a girl who wasn't wearing a bra, and how annoyed the principal was, and how proud I still am of us.

It made me angry because I was in middle school in the 90s and I taught in that school district between 2003-2005 and this book was published in 2020.

We should be better than this by now. We should be beyond shaming children for their growing bodies. We shouldn't shame anyone for how they look or dress.

The book would have been better had Firestone just stuck to the dress code storyline - vaping is a problem, but it didn't quite fit with the rest of the plot. But if the novel convinces even one person to stand up, student, teacher, or parent, then it has done its job.

It made me angry, and so should it make all of its readers.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,211 reviews1,649 followers
August 25, 2020
This is one of those books I picked up for the large cast of narrators. I really liked the parts about the dress code itself and the way the students, particularly the female students, banded together to create real change. It's a microcosm of the political awareness today's kids have to have given what's happening within our country. There's a focus on the sexism of the policy, as well as a mention of the way it can be racist as well.

What I was not prepared for and didn't like as much was the plot about Molly's older brother, Danny, who is a vape dealer to the middle schoolers. Is this a thing? I feel like such an old person, but omg is vaping a national crisis in middle school? It definitely felt like an anti-vaping PSA, which I don't disagree with, but it's not necessarily the most fun thing to read, because Danny seemed to be around as a character solely for that.

I think this would be a good read for middle and high schoolers who might be coming up against dress code policies for the first time. It's probably not the most nuanced thing out there about drug use for this age group, but I'll admit I'm not an expert on mg fiction, so idk.
26 reviews3 followers
March 9, 2020
I completely loved this book and enjoyed cheering along Molly and crew as they took a stand for themselves. Sadly, dress codes like the one in this story are all too common in schools and I love the way this book addressed the negative impact they can have on girls. There were a lot of great layers to this story - Molly’s relationship with her brother (and family overall), the various friendships amongst students, encounters with school staff (both positive and negative). This book has humor and heart and such an empowering message for students that they can question things and be the catalyst for change.
Profile Image for Christina.
1,254 reviews
May 26, 2021
4.5 stars. I picked up an advance reader copy of this book at the Public Library Association conference last week. I’m not a librarian, but do work in book publishing, and I'm always on the lookout for books for my niece. She’ll be ten this fall, and this book is listed as for 10+. It’s an excellent book, but I think she’s still a bit young for it. The main characters are all 12-13, which seems a good age for readers of this novel, though obviously it depends on the reader. The plot deals with girls going through puberty, including developing breasts and menstruation, as well as some crushes and sexual identity. The protagonist also has a brother who sells vaping pods to younger kids. So a ten-year-old might find it confusing or unrelatable if she or her friends aren’t at that stage yet. But girls at that stage will particularly appreciate characters and experiences they identify with.

The novel focuses on 8th grader Molly Frost who overhears her classmate, Olivia, being reprimanded by two male teachers for breaking the dress code. This has serious repercussions, because the class was promised a camping trip if they managed not to break the dress code. When the novel begins, the whole class is angry with Olivia because the trip has been cancelled. But Olivia had a very understandable reason, and Molly sets out to help her.

The novel demonstrates a refreshing contrast to the mean girl stereotype, as girls pull together in support rather than tear down classmates. But then Molly goes further, determined to change the unfair code that is extreme (no bare shoulders, not a hint of midriff, shorts longer than your fingertips, no tight clothes—all the rules only apply to girls). The code is also enforced unevenly depending on the student, as well as overzealously in a damaging way, both psychologically as girls constantly worry about being reprimanded, as well as academically as they’re pulled out of class for reprimands, all ostensibly so they don’t distract the boys. Molly doesn’t want future girls to suffer.

I don’t recall having a dress code when I was in school. I even dug out one of my high school student handbooks from the 1990s to check (I keep everything, and am disturbingly organized). The only thing it says about dress code is, “Students are...expected to dress in a manner that does not interfere with the work of the school or create a safety hazard to themselves or others.” So that aspect was hard to relate to personally. The instances in this novel seem a bit unrealistically extreme, but that makes for good fiction. And I do know it’s a timely topic.

As an adult, initially I couldn’t help seeing both points of view in this novel. It seems some reasonable guidelines about attire make sense, but I also know fashion trends can make following them difficult. I kept thinking of that low rise jeans trend, where girls and women would show off their underwear every time they bent forward, whether intentionally or not. Super short shorts tend to cycle regularly into fashion. I could relate to the girls’ difficulty in finding shorts longer than their fingertips. As an adult, I’ve faced that issue and have a lot more options. There’s also the fact that they’re right in between child and becoming an adult. They want to wear what makes them feel good, and aren’t thinking about being sexy. But the rules are centered on clothes viewed through a lens of sexuality. They’re rules from an adult point of view, and it’s particularly disturbing that they’re often enforced by men (which some of the girls point out in their own way).

One of the main things I enjoyed was seeing what it’s like being a kid today. Granted, I recognize this is fiction, and exaggerated to entertain. But so much has changed since I was 13, it’s like reading about another culture (actually, I think it is reading about another culture). The author uses a nice mix of ways to convey the story, including transcripts of Molly’s podcasts, letters, lists, and group chat texts. Community-wide conversation is such a new thing, but for Gen Z it’s a norm. It’s also especially relevant to this story, and Molly is a kind person who is conscious of being inclusive and seems to have a lot of friends.

When I was a kid, we relied on pay phones (and knew where they all were, every restaurant had one). The Internet launched nationally when I was a teen. My version of “social media” were AOL’s first chat rooms, where you could essentially text on a desktop computer with complete strangers. None of my friends were on it, and each room only allowed 23 people. Initially there was only one teen chat, and it was often empty or only had a few people. Being able to conference call became a thing when I was in high school, and I remember one evening when we got over 30 kids on the same call because we could. But all our phones were tethered, many still by coiled cords. My friends and I even had our own primitive form of texting. In high school one year I had a centrally located locker with a strange quirk—if you pulled the handle and kicked the right spot, it opened. I let my friends leave their stuff there as needed, because several had lockers in the far corners of the school that were hard to get to between classes. I also had a magnetic notepad on the door where we’d write each other notes and make plans. Just like texting, right? Our communication was more intentional, more one-on-one, and far less invasive. It makes me wonder if that contributed to a culture of social cliques. If you have to call people individually to make plans, you might limit a group just because of logistics.

In this novel, they use group texts that include the whole class in various discussions. They also have some sort of GPS app that shows you where specific people are. So any of your classmates can see if you’re at a particular friend’s house or at the mall if your phone is on. I don’t know if this is a real app, but suspect it is as the others are (they also use Instagram). I can’t imagine living constantly with that level of scrutiny.

I’m curious about how accurate all of this is from a young reader’s point of view. But it is good fiction. I read almost the entire book in one sitting, and had trouble putting down. The page count is on the high end for this age group, but many of the chapters are only 1 or 2 pages, so there’s a lot of blank space.
I think the characters are both relatable and people you’d want to spend time with. It also taps into Gen Z’s passion for activism. I’d recommend this book for school libraries and pre-teens or young teens. I really enjoyed it.

My goal is to pass the ARCs I got at PLA to someone who will help support the book. So my plan for this is to take it to the children’s librarian at my local library.
2 reviews
March 8, 2021
I really liked how the book was laid out. It didn't go into much detail and was very quick to read. I was able to relate to the book which made me understand it so much better. I think it would give boys a better understanding about dress codes and how strict they are on girls, but I also think that it helps girls realize that they aren't alone with dress codes and that they are affecting girls all around the world. This book really gives you and understanding of what some girls go through throughout middle school and even some high schools. It also talks about the differences and changes about what you wear in high school. The book made highschool seem less intimidating and it makes me feel more relaxed about going into highschool. It gave me a better understanding about things I didn't even realize I could learn more about.
Profile Image for Jenna (Falling Letters).
645 reviews59 followers
May 12, 2021
Review originally published 5 July 2020 at Falling Letters. I received a free copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

Dress Code Enforcement

My instinctual response to the enforcement of the dress code in Dress Coded was that it’s a bit over top and leans almost into parody. It’s like every single bad story you’ve heard about dress coding happening at one school. Unfortunately, I’m sure there are schools just like Molly’s. The message and actions of Molly and co. will still resonate with any kid who’s been asked to cover their shoulders or change into longer shorts, even if it’s not been in as embarrassing or aggressive situations as at Molly’s school.

Speaking Out

Molly read to me as your average white middle schooler. She doesn’t stick out much. She doesn’t get into anything too exciting or risque. At first glance, she doesn’t seem 'interesting' enough to be a protagonist. But she sees an injustice and raises her voice about it. Dress Coded highlights what this generation of young students can achieve, with their keen sense of justice and access to new technologies.

I loved the relationship between the high school, middle school, and elementary school students. The high school girls are keen to support the middle schoolers, because they know what they’re going through and want to help them make a change. As well, Molly and her classmates will move to high school before administration enacts any changes, but they still want to make a difference for the elementary schoolers coming up.

Interestingly, dress coding is only a problem at Molly’s middle school. The high school doesn’t enforce the dress code. I wonder how common that it is? My own experience was reversed (i.e. dress code more strictly enforced at high school. Of course, that was 10+ years ago now…)

A Sibling with Addiction

Molly’s relationship with her older brother Danny forms a significant subplot. Danny’s in grade 11. He has a vaping addiction and has been selling to kids at Molly’s school. Molly has always had a difficult relationship with her brother, even before vaping entered the picture. She wants him to treat her like a big brother should – she wants kindness, friendship, support – but he treats her poorly and takes advantage of her desire for a good relationship with him.

This subplot is almost equal to the main plot. Their relationship isn’t perfectly resolved by the end of the story. There are steps forward and steps back. Molly learns that she’s not to blame for Danny’s treatment of her. I haven’t read many middle grade stories that depict imperfect sibling relationships, so I really appreciated that narrative. (Writing this makes me realize I wouldn’t say no to a YA novel from Danny’s perspective.)

‘Diverse’ Representation?

While there’s lots to love about this book, it isn’t perfect. A couple questionable moments stood out to me. A Black girl from Trinidad appears about 70% into the story to share her experience with a boy who wouldn’t stop touching her hair. The teacher told Talia she needed to fix her hair, instead of telling the boy to stop. Her story appalls Molly and co.; teachers and parents “listen with horrified expressions” and “shake their heads”. (As if the only racist experience Talia had at that school was with that one teacher…) While I think it’s good that this example of racism is included, I wish Talia had been a more fleshed out character and not just an example/lesson.

A more prominent character throughout the book is Molly’s friend Megan, who has cerebral palsy. We hear stories from when Molly and Megan were little. They hang out together. A few incidences address the bullying Megan experiences. It wasn’t until about 65% of the way through that I started to question if Megan's portrayal might be read as ‘inspiration porn’. This is when Molly directly asks Megan, “How are you still happy? How has all that horrible stuff not affected you?” Megan answers that her mom taught her not to give them her energy, which resonates with Molly. I think Megan is a well-rounded character, but I would like to hear from #ownvoices reviewers on this. While Megan’s portrayal may be problematic, I can say I would have liked Talia to have been a larger part of the story, like Megan is.

💭 The Bottom Line:With two story lines on keenly relevant topics converging on the point of a young girl learning to speak up and make a change, Dress Coded makes a strong addition to today’s contemporary middle grade. Pair with Maybe He Just Likes You.
Profile Image for Laura Gardner.
1,667 reviews103 followers
October 9, 2020
Lives up to the hype!! (Audio is great!)
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Immediately adding this to our collection, as well as my 10 Questions for Young Changemakers booklist. Love reading and recommending fiction that shows teens taking action on issues that matter to them. 😍
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#dresscoded #carriefirestone #youngchangemakers #library #librarian #futurereadylibs #iteachlibrary #bookstagrammer #bookstagram #librariesofinstagram #librariansofinstagram #librariesfollowlibraries #librarylife #librarianlife #schoollibrarian #middlegrade #middlegradebooks #iteach #librarylove #booksbooksbooks #amreading #bibliophile #schoollibrariansrock #bookreview #bookrecommendation #igreads #malibrary #msla #mediaspecialist
Profile Image for Jennifer Mangler.
1,316 reviews13 followers
December 30, 2020
I wish the book had focused on the issue of the dress code. Throwing in vaping, bullying, and bears was too much and really distracted from the main story line, which would have been so much more powerful and impactful if the book had focused on it and left the other stuff out. Not that those other issues aren't important, but they were treated almost as an afterthought and didn't wrap up in any real way like the dress code story line did. Still, despite the problems I had with the book I'm rating it 3 stars because I like that main story line a lot.
Profile Image for Kelsey.
362 reviews
February 5, 2021
Bears, vapes, Battlestar Ga---okay, but seriously, wtf is up with this weird obsession with vaping??? and bears?

I also had frequent cringe-moments with some of the dialog and actions of the characters. Many of the characters seemed to speak and act much younger, more like 8-10 rather than 13-14.
Molly was great, though. I really enjoyed her growth throughout the story.

3 stars for the dress coding storyline, which was very well done...but 2 stars for the other random plots. 🤷🏼‍♀️
Profile Image for Veruca Athena.
266 reviews5 followers
March 16, 2021
FINALLY! I’ve been wanting to read this book for who knows how long and now I finally have! I loved it so much and it was a perfect feminist middle grade. For those of you who have read Moxie, this book depicts what Moxie would have looked like of it took place in middle school and Vivian Carter started a podcast. Truly shows what a dress code is like and why it needs to change.
Profile Image for Crystal.
64 reviews
August 5, 2020
This book is another all young girls should read. Dress codes in middle school...ugh...fighting against unfair treatment and harassment over clothing...YES! A great book about fighting for what’s right and what you believe in!
Profile Image for Sarah.
716 reviews37 followers
August 6, 2020
I contributed this review to Really Into This

Check out all of our reviews at https://reallyintothis.com
Happy Reading, friends!

I love this book so much that I am buying a copy next time I head to my bookstore. First, this book truly seems like it is coming from the voice of an eighth-grader. Molly is just amazing. Readers hear & see her finding & using her voice throughout DRESS CODED.

Young girls are being treated unfairly at this middle school. Called out for not following the dress code, they are shamed, ridiculed & treated as less than. Molly is fed up. She starts a podcast, helps her fellow classmates (past & present) use their voice to change the dynamic at this school.

DRESS CODED is a story about young people finding their voice, putting their power behind it & never letting go. I'm tearing up writing this review much as I was tearing up while reading this book. Firestone writes a powerful & meaningful story that touches on family issues, friendship, self-esteem, self-worth & growing up. A must-read!
Profile Image for aubrie.
26 reviews
August 1, 2022
A story where girls in middle and in high school start a podcast on how the dress code is unfair.
I absolutely loved this book, i read it in one sitting. This book tackles how the dress code is sexist and unfair to girls, which is 100% true.
5/5 stars! highly recommend
Profile Image for Sacha.
905 reviews
July 7, 2020
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review. I’ll post that review upon publication.

Updated 7/7/20

3 stars

This is a wonderful concept, and it is truly charming to watch and listen to the main character, Molly, outline her grievances, make space for others, and find creative outlets (notably a podcast) for achieving these goals.

Molly notices the injustice surrounding dress coding early on, but it's a particular instance that proves the final straw: the targeting of a particular classmate who is more developed than some of her peers, who has an embarrassing moment that all people with periods can relate to (though I wish this were not embarrassing - that's a whole other deal), and who gets publicly shamed for baring her shoulders on campus. The entire scene really transports the reader back to middle school and provides some solid empathetic horror. After getting this classmate's story, the m.c. continues recording first hand experiences and becomes quite the activist.

While the premise is excellent and there are many strengths, there are a few aspects of this novel that did not work for me. Molly - a middle schooler - talks and writes like an established adult: a confident one at that. I'll avoid spoilers, but there are various interactions in which she is more poised and eloquent than most adults would be in her the same scenario. It is...weird. In general, her voice always felt like an adult was writing her, and that is tough in a middle grade novel (but possible to escape! For a recent example, see Julie Murphy's _Sweet Pea_). On the other hand, Molly's mom is unbearable. There is a true role reversal going on that I did not understand. The mother is weirdly obsessed with Molly's future prom date...in four years. However, she seems to have no clue what either of her kids is actually doing or how to provide guidance or support. Their dynamic was crazy making for me. I also found this novel to be way too long. The dress coding situation is a great frame, but other aspects - like the vaping and quick mentions of the kids' identities - were random and not well integrated. All of these components have promise, but I wish there had been some thorough reworking in the noted areas.

This concept is absolutely worthy of a read, but I did find myself really frustrated by some of what I felt I was wading through on the journey.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
3,429 reviews44 followers
June 25, 2020
Molly Frost is your typical 8th grader. She struggles with self-esteem and body issues, she works hard to do well in school, she's finding her place between new and old friends as kids grow, mature, and change. Unlike other 8th graders, though, Molly's family is falling apart. Her 17 year old brother, Danny, won't stop vaping and is starting to sell vaping pods to other kids, including kids at Molly's school. Molly is constantly stressed and feels like her family is falling apart. When she sees her friend get yelled at and humiliated by two male teachers at school for wearing a shirt that shows her shoulders, she's finally had enough. Molly starts Dress Coded: the Podcast.

Activism is new to Molly, but she doesn't let that stop her. Somehow she manages to become a safe place for other girls to talk about their experiences getting "dresscoded" and the effects of the podcast snowball into more concrete protests. While the main theme of the story is the dress code and the efforts Molly spearheads to change it, there are secondary stories about vaping, family dynamics, bullying, body image, misogyny, romance, and kids exploring their sexuality. While this might seem like a lot of issues for one middle grade novel to tackle (it is!), somehow as a reader I never lost sight of the plot or point of the story. It all felt real to me. Yes, Molly was overwhelmed, but I remember being completely overwhelmed in middle school, too. Yes, there's a ton of crazy issues in the book, but none of them felt forced or thrown in just for kicks.

This book was an easy, quick read, but the themes are so timely and the author handled them seamlessly and I never felt lost or distracted. It was beautifully done and I highly recommend this book to any reader from 6th grade and up.

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Rosemary.
246 reviews4 followers
June 30, 2020
A really good middle-grades book about the inherent sexism behind many school dress codes. Molly Frost, 8th grader at Fisher Middle School, is fed up with the administration's arbitrary dress code. She's seen the kind of emotional damage it's caused her friends, though--as a late bloomer--she has yet to be "pulled over" for her clothing choices. (The very fact that she hasn't, even when she's been wearing exactly the same outfit as her more developed friends, tells her everything she needs to know about what's being policed at the school).

To fight back, she starts a podcast in which she interviews girls who've been dress coded. Through Molly, Firestone points out that the real "problems" aren't with the girls' clothing, but with adults' misperceptions and misunderstandings about why they're wearing them. The podcast starts when Molly's friend Olivia is reprimanded for refusing to put the hoodie she's tied around her waist back on when an administrator tells her that the tank top she's wearing violates the school dress code. Slowly the story comes out: Olivia's period started, she had a leak, and she's tied the hoodie around her waist to cover it up. What middle school girl, or former middle-school girl, hasn't had that experience, or known someone who has? Molly's podcast eventually starts a school wide movement, and she learns to use her voice to help others.

_Dress Coded_ handles the topic of dress codes in a lighthearted but serious way, broadening its scope to talk about Black students who are "pulled over" for wearing natural hairstyles, and the cruel way kids can turn on kids with disabilities. As one of Molly's interviewees says when asked whether the school should have a dress code at all, "No. Middle school is hard enough."

I'd definitely recommend this to my English-education majors who are planning to teach middle school. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.
Profile Image for Allie.
240 reviews2 followers
March 31, 2020
I wasn’t expecting much when I picked this up. Lately, all YA realistic is just nothing but an author trying to be super relevant and diverse and they plug in all the buzz words into their story that don’t belong there and ruin it.

This author? She did not do that. She made it relevant to kids today and it didn’t feel forced or fake. I thought of so many of my students in these characters.
Up until reDing this, I was pretty stubborn on my belief in the need for a dress code. It actually changed my mind a little.
I loved that it wasn’t just about dress code. It had depth and heart and shows reAders that everybody is going through something. Bonus: the narrator is a little snarky.
Profile Image for Thunder.
230 reviews
March 12, 2021
Ok, honestly, I was VERY, VERY excited to read this.
I recently started my own group of some of my friends to reform the dress code, because it is SO SEXIST.
This book was SO RELATABLE because schools really DON'T take any action to solve larger issues (bigger issues than what material to make the playing fields, ugh).
Words cannot describe how much I loved this book.
SO. GOOD. SO GOOD.
EVERYONE. And I mean EVERYONE should go read this book. Whether you're a boy, a girl, non-binary, whatever, GO READ THIS BOOK!!!!
Profile Image for Heather.
901 reviews4 followers
August 12, 2021
It's really middle grade, but I think teens would dig it.

The bodies of females are often classified as a distraction to learning, but what it means is a distraction to boys' learning!

And it's bullshit. And this book is about a girl named Molly who thinks its bullshit and creates a podcast to interview people who have been treated unfairly.
There's some background stories that I didn't love, but were fine.

But man, that Molly is the best.
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