Also by this author: The Truth About Alice: A Novel, Devoted, Afterward
Published by Roaring Brook Press on September 19th 2017
Pages: 330 •Goodreads
Moxie girls fight back!
Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.
Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so 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. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.
It seems like no matter what social media platform I was on at the beginning of fall this year, Moxie was everywhere- Instagram, Twitter, news articles, etc. The punchy hot pink and black cover screamed feminism! in a way that I haven’t seen a YA book do in such a headstrong way before. I was thrilled to see Moxie was taking the internet by storm, and it took me back to my college days where I took several Women’s Studies classes and, like Viv in the book, truly understood what feminism was for the first time and learned about its importance with all of the biases and stereotypes stripped away. Once my pre-order came in (which also included a donation to Hurricane Harvey relief, which was phenomenal), I proudly displayed the book on my shelf as I waited for my TBR to clear so I could read it. Moxie is the feminist introduction that every high school girl needs.
Moxie focuses on protagonist Viv, who lives in small town in Texas and who has a rather unconventional upbringing for her community- she’s raised by a single mom and her mom used to be a Riot Grrrl in the ’90s (can we talk about how old it makes me feel like that YA protagonists are now often born after the year 2000???). She’s seen glimpses into her mom’s past life before becoming pregnant and widowed and returning to her small town, and those glimpses fuel a feminist fire in her to fight back against a lot of the sexist problems happening in her own high school. Viv’s journey is believable and riddled with moments of both doubt and empowerment, which I think would be realistic for any teenager standing up for the status quo in a community where change is extremely hard to enact. I especially loved how Viv chose to go with ‘zines as her core platform in the book, and I loved that we saw the hand drawn illustrations in the book as if hey had been xeroxed right in (I had to make a ‘zine for a group project in college and it’s seriously so empowering, and the book got the tone of the ‘zine and ‘zine making just right!)
One thing I greatly admired about Moxie is that it portrayed the challenges that each character had with coming to terms with feminism and event the obstacles they faced in their own families and relationships. Viv must balance her budding feminism with how to navigate her first real relationship with a boy. She has her friend Lucy who is ready to shout her activism from the rooftops, and her friend Claudia who is much more unsure and hesitant in making change and standing up for herself and others. Viv’s own family is a place where she must balance and navigate her feelings and expectations as well- her grandparents are very conservative and while her mom has her Riot Grrrl past, she begins dating someone very conservative which is a struggle for Viv because she thinks her mom is compromising some of her values for her romantic relationship. I love that Mathieu integrated how difficult and polarizing the mindsets and political views can be by different family members, and the tension it can cause- the personal is political, after all.
While I enjoyed the book overall, there were some parts that felt slow or that they dragged for me, which is why Moxie was a 4 star read for me. I honestly feel like it would have resonated more with me if I had read it in high school or early college, because it would have been more eye opening and explained a lot about feminism in an accessible and interesting way. Given that I spent a lot of time studying feminism and gender in college, I definitely appreciated this book but I feel like it will be so so so so important for those really starting to explore feminism for the first time or who are a bit younger. I definitely would want my future daughter to read this book and feel inspired and ask questions and overall start to realize why books and stories like this are necessary.
Overall: Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu is an important book that will hopefully create even more of a dialogue surrounding feminism in the YA community, especially for younger readers or those who aren’t familiar with some of the history surrounding the movement and some of the core foundations. Viv’s story was realistic, inspiring, frustrating, awkward, and all around authentic and I don’t think Mathieu could have done a better job navigating all of the teenage emotions wrapped into first stepping into a political and personal movement better than she did in this novel.