Grow Up, Tahlia Wilkins!

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By Karina Evans

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In this fun and honest romp about friendship, puberty, and growing up, a debut author gives modern-day readers their own version of Are You There God? It's Me Margaret, for fans of Pixar's Turning Red.

Twelve-year-old Tahlia Wilkins is ready to kick off the perfect summer, starting with an invitation to a pool party being thrown by the most popular kid in school. But when the Red Goddess of Panties, aka her first period, arrives twenty-four hours before the party, it messes up all her plans. To make matters worse, her mom is out of town, and there’s no way she’s going to ask her awkward dad for help! Tahlia always feared that growing up would be tough, but this is just not fair.

In order to save herself from total embarrassment, it will take all of Tahlia and her best friend Lily’s scheming to keep her reputation—and her favorite jeans—from being ruined. Sneak off to the grocery store only to have the clerk price-check your tampons over the loudspeaker? Check. Trick your mature teenage neighbor into letting you use some of her tampons? Check. Take a dip into a fountain to get quarters for a bathroom period product dispenser? Check, check, check!

With the hilarious and heartwarming tone of Dork Diaries, Grow Up, Tahlia Wilkins! is a coming-of-age middle-grade novel about growing up, in all of its awkward glory.



It’s official—my traitorous chin is growing a zit.

Well, I guess I’m not exactly positive—I could probably count on one hand the number of pimples I’ve had—but I’m pretty sure the throbbing feeling just below my lower lip did not come from some bee that managed to fly into Mrs. Brown’s classroom and sting my face without anyone noticing.

The timing could not be worse. I do not want to have a pimple right in time for the most important event of my life—Noah Campos’s pool party.

A.k.a. the event that will make or break my entire summer.

Since Noah is the most popular kid in the seventh grade, the pool party is all anyone’s been talking about for the last month of school. Anyone who has been invited, that is. Pretty sure Alexa Arnecki, the girl who still brings dolls to school, and Keith Green, the kid who wears pajama pants to class and serenades people on their birthday, won’t be there.

It’s my chance to prove to everyone that I am not the same girl who wore a one-piece bathing suit with knee-length board shorts and goggles to Noah’s start-of-summer pool party last year. No sirree!

I cringe at the memory. I’d worn the board shorts so that my legs wouldn’t get burned in the sun, and I’d worn the goggles because I thought we’d be doing flips into the pool and I didn’t want to get water in my eyes. But when I got there, all the other girls were in cute bathing suits. Even Hannah Bean, who’d worn oversized soccer jerseys to school every single day last year, had on a fun two-piece suit for the party.

How was I the only one to miss the memo? Hadn’t we all just learned in Mr. Richard’s sixth-grade class how important it was to cover up to prevent too much sun exposure?

Everyone had laughed at me and asked if I was planning on going tide-pooling. I even heard them whispering about my “baby goggles” for the rest of the party.

I cannot let that happen to me again.

But now, my throbbing chin threatens to ruin everything. What if a whole zit cluster pops up? A pack of pimples does not scream new and improved. It screams, Look at these planets on my face! And it’s just my luck. Now I have less than twenty-four hours before the party to destroy my soon-to-be pimple solar system. Greeaat.

I run my finger over the throbbing area before swiping open the front-facing camera on my phone to stare at my chin. The camera angle makes my face look like a thumb.

Yup, it’s a growing pimple, all right. A biggie too. And it gets redder and redder the more I poke at it, trying to force it to go back down.

Am I supposed to know how to get rid of this bulging life-ruiner? I’ve never seen Noah Campos poking around on his face. Maybe he knows of some secret anti-acne formula.

“Ahem. Tahlia?”

I look up to see my teacher, Mrs. Brown, staring at me from the front of the classroom with her arms crossed.

I gulp. I’d almost forgotten I was still in class.

“I know it’s the last day of school, but I still need your attention until the bell rings, yes?” She raises an eyebrow. “No phones.”

I quickly set my phone screen-down on my desk and give her my best “I’m genuinely sorry” expression.

Mrs. Brown nods and continues on with whatever she was saying.

I look over my shoulder to see my best friend, Lily, rolling her eyes. Lily’s dark hair is pulled up into a bun, and her purple braces match her purple-striped shirt. I think the purple-on-purple combo makes her seem even younger than she is. She’s already the youngest in our grade, so the bright colors make her look like a little crayon. Sometimes I wish she’d outgrow all the matchy-matchy, but I’d never tell her that.

Lily and I met on the very first day of kindergarten, and we’ve been practically sisters ever since, so she knows me well enough to see I’m definitely not sorry for ignoring Mrs. Brown. And why should I be? We took our end-of-the-year tests two weeks ago, and we haven’t learned anything since. My pimple emergency is much more important than listening to Mrs. Brown go on about how much of a “pleasure” it’s been to have us in her class. Teachers have to say stuff like that, even if they don’t mean it—and in this case, Mrs. Brown definitely doesn’t. I personally saw Amir Abdi jam a pencil up his nose and try to take a pop quiz without using his hands. Twice. That was not a “pleasure” to watch.

“And that’s why I know you’ll all do great next year on the eighth-grade side of campus,” finishes Mrs. Brown. “It’s been so nice getting to know you all.”

From her seat behind Lily, Jackie Berg raises her hand and starts talking before Mrs. Brown has a chance to call on her.

“When do we get our class schedules for next year?” Jackie asks, flipping her long hair behind her shoulder.

Jackie used to hang out with Lily and me every weekend in elementary school—in fact, when we started classes this year, she even rode her bike to school with us. But ever since she started straightening her hair and wearing shoes not meant for pedaling, she stopped biking and started having her parents drop her off. Now she spends the weekends with popular kids like Noah Campos.

I tried asking my parents to drive Lily and me to school, but they laughed me out of the room. So I’m doomed to helmet hair and dirty sneakers.

“Sometime in August,” Mrs. Brown answers.

I pick at my chin. I think I read somewhere that yogurt is good to smear on pimples. Or was it mayonnaise? I can’t remember now. Ugh! School just needs to be over so I can figure this out.

“Anyway”—Mrs. Brown looks up at the clock on the wall—“I know the last bell is about to ring and you’ll go racing out of here, but enjoy your summer and make sure to come visit me and the rest of your seventh-grade teachers next year!” She claps her hands together with a big grin.

On cue, the last bell finally goes off, and a few kids throw their papers up in the air and let them flutter to the floor. I grab my phone and swipe open the camera again to look at my chin as the rest of the class gathers their things and hustles out of the room.

“Leave it alone!” Lily whispers as she comes up behind me.

The very fact that she knows what I’m picking at means that she can see the growing zit, which does not make me want to leave it alone. It makes me want to pick at it until it’s completely gone.

“Easy for you to say. You’ve never had one.” I frown.

Lily rolls her eyes. “Come on,” she says, tugging my arm and pulling me out of my desk. “My mom wants me to come straight home after school.”

I sigh and stand. We really can’t dawdle if Lily’s mom wants her home. Her mom is eight months’ pregnant, so whatever she says goes.

Yup, that’s right—pregnant. As in, with a real live baby. I nearly choked on a pretzel when Lily told me the news. My best friend being a big sister? It’s just so weird. And unexpected. But I’ve accepted it now.


Lily and I march out of the classroom and head toward the bike rack. A group of eighth graders are celebrating finishing middle school by taking pictures in front of our school’s sign. They laugh and pose as they take turns snapping the photos, making sure all their friends have a chance to be in a big group shot. It looks fun.

If Noah’s party goes well tomorrow, maybe when Lily and I graduate middle school next year, it won’t be just the two of us taking pictures of each other. We might even have our own group. Sigh.

When we reach our bikes, Jackie is leaning up against the rack and scrolling through her phone.

“Hey, Jackie!” Lily waves.

I try not to groan. Lily is always so nice to her. It’s like she doesn’t even care that Jackie used to be our close friend before she ditched us. She used to be part of our little group. One day we were all eating lunch together, and the next Jackie was across the cafeteria, laughing with her new friends. We hadn’t even been in a fight or anything. She just… left.

Jackie glances up from her phone. “Oh, hey, guys.” She looks back down at the screen and keeps scrolling.

“Are you going to Noah’s pool party tomorrow?” Lily asks excitedly.

Tomorrow will be Lily’s first time going to one of Noah’s parties. She had a stomach bug last year, so she wasn’t there to witness my horrible goggles-and-board-shorts incident. She only heard about it later.

I know I really can’t blame Lily for being sick, but sometimes I can’t help but think that if she had been there, then at least there would have been two of us who didn’t get the cute-suit alert. And I know for a fact that Lily would’ve worn her purple rash-guard, because she doesn’t like when her shoulders peel after being in the sun too long.

Jackie nods. “Mhmm, are you?”

“Yup!” Lily beams. “We’re going to ride over to Noah’s from Tahlia’s house.”

“You’re biking?” Jackie looks at us as if we’ve just told her we step in dog poop for fun.

“No,” I say quickly, even though we were planning to take our bikes. “Riding—as in a car.” It’s the only thing I can think to say to make her stop looking at us with a raised eyebrow.

“Okay,” Jackie says, smiling. “Cool. And no board shorts and baby goggles this year, right, Tahlia?” She smirks.

My stomach sinks.

Jackie was still our friend last summer. She knows how embarrassing the party was for me, because I specifically told her. She even helped me pick out my first two-piece bathing suit afterward so that it would never happen again. I hate that Jackie has all this secret knowledge about stuff I told her when we could trust her, and now she just uses it to remind me she doesn’t hang out with me anymore.

I know it bothers Lily too, but Lily is always so friendly to her. It’s annoying. I wish she would dislike Jackie like I do, but instead Lily acts extra nice to her, as if she thinks it’ll somehow convince Jackie we’re still fun to hang out with. Yeah, right. Like that’ll ever work.

There’s a car honk from behind us.

“That’s my mom,” Jackie says as she slings her backpack over her shoulder. “But I’ll see you tomorrow, sevies!” She gives us a wave before racing over to the pickup loop, where her mom’s car is waiting.

I frown at her use of sevies. It’s what the eighth graders used to call us seventh graders, and it never felt like a compliment. Besides, her saying it doesn’t even make any sense. She’s in the same grade we are. We’re all technically now eighties.

Lily doesn’t seem to mind the term, because she turns to me and asks, “What’s wrong with biking?”

“Nothing,” I say, but it comes out a bit ruder than I mean it, so I add, “I don’t know.” Which is the truth—I honestly don’t. Biking is fun and useful. I have no idea when and why it became uncool.

Lily shrugs. “Me neither.”

She clips on her helmet, pulls her bike out from the rack, and swings her leg over it. I follow her lead.

“Ready?” Lily asks.

I nod.

We take off toward our neighborhood, passing the line of parents waiting to pick up their kids from school. I wonder which car is Noah’s. I’ve never seen him bike to school.

Lily leads us onto the next street and picks up her pace. She loves to go fast. Usually, I do too, but today, even though I know I should be happy that school has ended and summer is starting, I can’t help getting a little bit grumpier with every rotation of my pedals.

But tomorrow’s party will be my chance to make everything right. I’ll wear my new two-piece bathing suit with no board shorts and no baby goggles. That way, even Jackie won’t have anything to poke fun at me for.

As long as the pool party goes according to my plan, and I can get rid of the pimple on my chin in time, then everything will be fine. I just can’t spend another summer as some big joke. I’ll show everyone that I am new and improved.

I let out a deep breath and tighten my grip on the bike.

Everything will be better after the pool party. It has to be.


When we reach the street where Lily turns left toward her house and I turn right toward mine, Lily bikes up onto the sidewalk and comes to a stop. I pull up beside her.

“Last ride of the year,” she says and smiles.

“Just think, next time we’re here, we’ll be eighth graders.” Even though I’m still a little grumpy, the thought of being one of the oldest kids at school sends a bit of giddy excitement through me.

But Lily doesn’t answer. She looks down and brushes dirt off her pants. I bet she’s picturing starting the new school year with a new baby sibling at home.

“I’ll text you in the morning about going to Noah’s together,” I say.

“Hopefully, that thing on your chin will be gone by then,” she says, chuckling.

I gasp. “Lily!”

She laughs and picks her foot off the ground to pedal forward.

“See you tomorrow!” she calls over her shoulder. “Eighth grader!”

I stick my tongue out at her but immediately realize it’s not something the new and improved Tahlia would do, so I suck it back in before anyone can see.

When Lily has biked around the corner, I push off the ground and start home. Three streets later, I walk my bike up my driveway before dropping it in the grass. I know Mom will want me to bring it around to the backyard, but that’s a chore for another time.

“There’s our seventh-grade graduate!” Mom says when I step through the front door. “How was your last day of school?”

Mom is wearing one of her professional work outfits and frantically stuffing things into her purse. The tips of her hair are damp from a shower, and they’ve made small wet marks on the shoulders of her blouse. It’s a common look for her. She’s always rushing out of the shower to get places. I must’ve inherited the being-on-time trait from Dad—definitely not from her.

“Good,” I say, shrugging. I don’t have time to chitchat. I need to get yogurt. Or mayonnaise. Or maybe both. Yeah, both. I’ll smear them both on my chin.

“Great!” She smiles. Then she motions to a stack of boxes near the door that leads out to the garage. “I know you just got home, but can you help me carry these to the car?”

“Where are Jamie and Ryan?” I ask. Usually, my twin sixteen-year-old brothers spend their afternoons playing video games while lounging on the couch. How suspiciously convenient that they just so happen to be missing when the chores get dished out.

“Can you please just help bring these out? I’m running late as it is,” she says as she picks up a box and shuffles into the garage.

“Whoa, Tahlia, did you hurt your chin?” Dad asks as he walks into the living room from the garage. He points at my face before bending down to pick up a box.

“Da-ad!” I slap a hand over my zit. If my dad—a man who didn’t even notice when Mom accidentally dyed her hair purple after using one of those do-it-yourself dye kits—can notice my growing chin pimple, I’ve really got a serious problem.

There’s no time to waste. I need to deal with it immediately if there’s any chance of it being gone by Noah’s party.

“I’ll be right back!” I exclaim as I turn on my heel.

Before I can sprint into the kitchen for yogurt, Dad says, “Wait, wait, wait! You can help your mom first for five seconds.”


Dad gives me one of his “Don’t even try it” looks.

I exhale loudly. “Fine,” I say as I march toward the boxes. “What’s in these things anyway?” I bend down to lift one of them up. It’s heavy.

“Stuff for my work retreat,” Mom answers as she walks back into the room. “Team-building games and snacks, mostly.” She picks up a box and hauls it toward the garage.

I eye the box in my arms. “What kind of snacks?”

“Please just bring it to the car, Tahlia,” she calls over her shoulder.

“Yeah, yeah,” I mumble.

One of the many joys of Mom running her own small business is that we always get roped in to help her do the grunt work. Cue eye roll.

Although, in the case of this grunt work, the sooner I get it done, the sooner Mom will hit the road. And with her gone, I can get my chin ready for Noah’s party in peace. So I hurry to load the box in the trunk.

When I trudge back into the living room, Dad passes by me carrying the last box to the car. Mom sneaks up behind me and plants a kiss on my head. I grimace, and she pulls me into a hug.

“I shouldn’t have scheduled the work retreat for this weekend.” She frowns. “I wish we all could’ve had a big dinner tonight to celebrate you kids’ last day of school. We’ll do something later.”

“Yup, got it. Have fun at your work thingy,” I say, wiggling free of the hug.

“And you have fun at the pool party tomorrow,” she says while pulling on a jacket. “I think I saw your board shorts in your closet.”

I make a face. “Urgh, no. I’m not wearing those.”

Mom raises an eyebrow. “Okay, well, remember to reapply sunscreen after swimming.”

“I will,” I grumble. “Oh, and I need a ride to the party.”

“Why can’t you bike?”

I ignore the question and whine, “Mom, please?”

She’s distracted and fumbling with her keys as she says, “Ask your dad. He’s the one who will need to take you over.”

On cue, Dad walks back into the house. I turn to face him.

“Dad,” I say sweetly, “can you drive me over to Noah’s pool party tomorrow?”

“Uh, sure,” he grunts as he lifts Mom’s suitcase and brings it into the garage.

I grin.

“I’ll be back tomorrow night. Late, probably,” Mom says. “And remember, on Monday we’re meeting with the school counselor to go over the various elective options for next year.”


I make a face and try not to groan aloud. While I am excited to be the oldest at school next year, the very last thing I want to think about right now is actually taking eighth-grade classes. I literally just finished seventh grade today! Can’t a girl get a little relax time? Sheesh!

Mom notices my annoyed expression. “It’s always good to be prepared, Tahlia. Summer goes faster than you think. And maybe if you look into taking some new extracurricular activities, you’ll make more friends!”

She’s made comments like this ever since Jackie stopped hanging out with Lily and me. Honestly, I think she was more upset about it than I was. I couldn’t care less that Jackie thinks she is too cool for us now. Not one bit. Nada. Why would I want to be friends with someone who doesn’t want to be friends with me? I don’t!

I mean, yeah, maybe a few more not-Jackie friends would be nice, but I’m not about to tell Mom that. She’d do something embarrassing like try to set up a “playdate” for me with one of her work friends’ kids, who are all younger than I am. No, thank you!

Besides, after tomorrow, I won’t even need Mom’s help. If I can prove to Noah that I’m cooler than I was last year, then maybe everyone else in my grade will think so too. Then it won’t matter at all what Jackie thinks.

I’m about to answer Mom, when the twins walk into the living room from the door that leads to our backyard. They’re sweaty and gross. They must have some sort of telepathic way of knowing when chores are finished. I’d envy them if they weren’t so disgusting.

“There you two are.” Mom smiles at them. “Come here. Come give me a hug before I take off.”

“What incredible timing you two have,” I say sarcastically to the twins as they walk over to hug Mom goodbye.

They smirk at me. I glare back.

Most people have trouble figuring out which twin is which, but it’s easy for me. Jamie looks like a doofus because his ears are too big, and Ryan looks like a doofus because his neck is too long. See? Easy.

“All right, I’m off.” Mom slings her purse over her shoulder and gives Dad a kiss. “You can call me for the next hour if you need anything. But remember, I won’t have service once I’m at the work retreat, since it’s in Forest County.”

“Bye, Mom,” I say.

“Bye, Mom,” Jamie and Ryan echo as they plop themselves down on the couch.

“See you guys tomorrow night. And congrats again on finishing the school year—yay!” Mom blows us kisses before hustling into the garage. A few moments later, I hear the automatic garage door slowly open and the car rumble to a start.

Dad sits next to my brothers on the couch, and Ryan (the one with the long neck) reaches for the remote to switch on the TV.

“Tahlia,” Jamie (the one with the large ears) says, pointing to my chin, “you’ve got a little something-something happening on your face. It’s not a good ‘something.’”

My eyes widen in horror. I’d almost forgotten about my rapidly expanding chin bump!

Without a second thought, I race into our downstairs guest bathroom. As soon as I close the door behind me, I hear Jamie and Ryan snicker from the couch.

Oh, what I’d give for a cool older sister instead of brainless brothers. Sigh.

I squint into the mirror and get to work on destroying the UFO (unwanted face object). But after ten minutes of poking, prodding, and squeezing, all I manage to do is create a little sweat line across my brow from concentrating so hard. The chin zit will not be easily removed. I think it must sense fear.

I’m about to give up, slap a Band-Aid across my face, and claim I was in some freak chin-only accident (maybe I’ll also get sympathy points), when there’s a strange feeling in my nether regions—you know, the area down below.

Confused, I undo my pants, sit down on the toilet, look down…


Holy Mother of Aunt Josephine. It has finally happened.

Wait—has it? I’m not sure. I’m not sure what it is meant to look like.

I squint a little closer. No, no, it has absolutely happened.

The Fairy Godmother of Puberty has paid me my first visit.

Translation? I, Tahlia Wilkins, have started my period in our tiny downstairs bathroom.





This can’t be happening. Not now.


  • "Quick-moving, lighthearted, and ultimately heartwarming, this first-person narrative will especially be enjoyed by readers awaiting or having recently experienced their first periods."—Kirkus
  • "Tahlia's experience of her first period is refreshingly matter-of-fact and extensive . . . Hand this voice-driven novel to kids interested in friendship stories."—Booklist
  • “This laugh-out-loud and all-too-real story about first periods is sure to speak to girls awaiting (or dreading) their own first periods…Highly recommended.”—The Mighty Girl
  • "Evans offers some practical tips for young people on the brink of menstruation, ending on a family-oriented upswing—and a note of relief.”—Publishers Weekly

On Sale
Oct 17, 2023
Page Count
320 pages

Karina Evans

About the Author

KARINA EVANS studied English and film studies at the University of Delaware before going into a career in the entertainment industry. She currently lives in Los Angeles, California. Grow Up, Tahlia Wilkins! is her first novel. She invites you to visit her online at

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