Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Genre: YA, contemporary
Format: eARC via Netgalley
Release Date: September 19th, 2017
Synopsis: An unlikely teenager starts a feminist revolution at a small-town Texan high school in the new novel from Jennifer Matheiu, author of The Truth About Alice.
MOXIE GIRLS FIGHT BACK!
Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with a school administration at her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment, and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.
Viv’s mom was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.
Moxie is a book about high school life that will make you wanna riot!
I’m going to apologize in advance for what is likely going to be a slightly incoherent, messy review, because my feelings on this book are just so mixed. MOXIE was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, but unfortunately it didn’t quite live up to expectation.
The main character, Vivian, is not who I expected her to be. She doesn’t immediately fly off the page spitting hardcore feminist rhetoric, or even stand up for her friends. I really thought I would be reading about a girl with firm resolve and an unbreakable desire to fight for other girls. I suppose that is what I got, but in a much different way.
Vivian is the quiet, invisible girl. She purposely does not attract any kind of attention, or make any statements. She even starts out as meek and kind of boring. Luckily, the author does a good job of changing that throughout the book, and Vivian becomes a leader to aspire to.
However, I think because Vivian is an underwhelming character, it created an underwhelming story. I’ll be honest, I was really nervous at the beginning of the book. I didn’t know where things were headed, and they didn’t look good. In the end though, the fact that Vivian is your average high school girl learning to embrace social justice and stand up for others produces the most powerful feminist message of all. Had I realized this at the start, I may not have been so disappointed by the lack of a headstrong main character.
The other thing that made me raise an eyebrow in the first 100 pages is the issue of intersectionality. At first glance, the Moxie movement does not seem very inclusive, involving primarily white girls with a couple Latina students thrown in. I was super relieved about halfway through, when the author finally addresses it.
“The night we watched that documentary about Kathleen Hanna, my mom talked about how Riot Grrrl was mostly white girls, and she was sorry they weren’t as welcoming to other girls as they could’ve been. That it was one of the few regrets she had about the whole thing. But that was as far as she’d gone. East Rockport High isn’t just white girls, for sure. I glance over where Kiera and Amaya are sitting. I think about how in this one way, maybe Moxie could be even better than the Riot Grrrls. Even stronger.”
I do think that the author does a good job of incorporating intersectionality, but there was more to be desired. I wanted a f/f romance at the forefront, or a girl that wrote something like “Moxie Girls Believe Black Lives Matter” on her arm. What I got was decent, but not quite bold enough.
And the biggest question mark of the whole book: the romance. It’s … interesting. Is it important to show that you can be a super feminist and still be wildly in love with a guy? Of course! But I didn’t love how Vivian’s relationship with Seth (the broody new boy at school *eye roll*) takes up such a large part of the book. I did appreciate how the author uses it as a tool to discuss the “Not All Boys” issue, as that was very well done and crucial to Vivian’s development as a feminist. But besides that, the romance didn’t do much for me in the way of swooning or general entertainment.
My main problem with this book, above all else, is the tropes. If you read my Myths from YA High post, you might have an idea of what I mean. There were countless annoying cliches, such as a) Queen Bee crowd is made up of preppy cheerleaders, b) everyone has a clique of friends based on their physical traits, and c) no one ever does any homework. The main friendships didn’t seem natural at all, they didn’t behave like your average teens. The dialogue is often so cringey I could barely read the page. I just wanted to scream, “NO ONE TALKS LIKE THAT!” into my Nook. All of this was so distracting from the feminist themes, that I found myself enjoying the book a lot less.
I did love how the author chose to approach certain issues that girls face in high school, namely sexual assault, misogyny, sexist and degrading comments, dismissal of concerns by authority, rape culture, and (I was overjoyed to read about this one) DRESS CODE. These are very realistic problems that many girls, including myself, face daily. I could relate to a lot of the discussion that happened regarding these issues, and how easily the administration brushed it all aside. I won’t spoil the story, but I’ll just say that Vivian invents some pretty kick ass and satisfying ways to fight back and make the female student body heard.
“As I watch Lucy spin and knock her dark curls around, and as I listen to Claudia laugh and sing along (badly), it occurs to me that this is what it means to be a feminist. Not a humanist or an equalist or whatever. But a feminist.”
I also adored the inspiration Vivian drew from the ’80s and ’90s “girl power” zines and punk rock bands! That was a lot of fun to read about.
The climax of the book is an incredibly empowering scene, and is beautifully written. It was definitely my favorite in the whole book, though I will admit the “twist” is laughably predictable. The ending is overly sappy in my opinion, but not terrible or completely unrealistic. Overall, I wanted MOXIE to pack more of a punch like it promised to, but the feminist aspects were very well-executed and crafted an important message to girls everywhere.
Have you read MOXIE? What did you think? How do you think you would(‘ve) respond(ed) to the start of a feminist movement at your school?
Thanks to Roaring Brook Press and Netgalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!