Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone is an advanced reader copy I obtained through this year’s virtual SLJ Day of Dialog. It was a pleasant surprise to find this book and three other titles in my mail this past week.
Set in Connecticut, this story will appeal to middle school girls everywhere! As a former middle and high school teacher, I could definitely connect to the issues at stake in this book (and am happy to say that I was not one of the fashion police!). Fisher Middle School’s principal has an obsession with maintaining a strict dress code, using a special monitor dubbed “Fingertip” who specifically keeps an eye out for shorts’ lengths, visible shoulders and cleavage.
Events get heated when the entire eighth grade camping trip is canceled when Olivia is caught breaking the dress code. Molly witnesses the exchange and decides that enough is enough. She starts a podcast in order to share Olivia’s side of the story. Her podcast starts the #dresscoded movement. Other middle and high school girls want to share their stories too. Molly and her friends add to the movement by putting up posters, signing a petition and going to the school board. When nothing seems to make a difference, they set up their own camp-in at the school. With persistence and strong arguments for equality, they are finally heard.
Short chapters are a combination of podcast interviews, letters, lists and storytelling. The dress code issue is surrounded by other important middle school topics: crushes, changing friendships, family struggles, vaping/addiction, and bullying. Molly learns who her real friends are, and figures out how to navigate stressful family events. There is great depth in this story, making it a must read for teen girls and a conversation starter for everyone.