Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
- Published September 19 2017
- Pages: 330
- Format: Library Copy (Hardback)
- Tags: Young Adult, Contemporary, Feminism, High School, Realistic Fiction, Strong Female Lead, Mothers & Daughters
| Synopsis From the Publisher |
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.
| Book Review |
– Content –
An introduction to early activism and feminism -> One of the things I like best about this book is how Mathieu’s own personal experiences prompted her to write a YA book that invites teenagers to become activists. Vivian is inspired by her own mother’s teenage years of activism and it prompts her to do something with these feelings of hurt and anger in a positive way to incite change. Anyone reading this will feel the power to do something infused into every page. It’s also nice to see a book promoting feminism, particularly to teenagers.
Baby-steps towards intersectionality -> I know there are readers out there who found this book fell short of the intersectionalism they would like to have seen. I agree that this book is from a cis-white protagonist and so the feminism displayed is more about gender equality than it is about LGBTQ+ or racial equality. There are elements in it, poc and LGBTQ+ characters, but their stories are background to Vivian’s story. I am of the opinion that this book is still important. While it could be more intersectional, I don’t fault Mathieu for writing something that probably more closely reflects her own experiences. Hopefully this book can serve as a springboard into other such works.
Not my favorite romance -> This being a YA novel set in high school, it’s not surprising that Mathieu introduces a romance plot line to the story. Vivian falls hard for the new guy who, surprise, surprise, is not like all the other sexist, misogynistic, meat-heads at her school. When he discovers Vivian is the one who has started actively protesting the inequality girls are experiencing at their school, he supports her (YAY!) but he has other issues that, for me, make me dislike him. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that this romance is not a deal-breaker, because certain things are addressed. Just for me, personally, I would be a little more hesitant to forgive.
Difficult themes addressed -> This book does tackle some pretty heavy stuff, like sexism and rape/rape-culture. I particularly like the fact that Mathieu doesn’t fall into the usual pitfalls when it comes to representing feminism. Everyone is in a learning-stage and there are no “good” or “bad” feminists here. I love the sense of community that is built, particularly when it comes to handling these heavy themes and I think it’s all done very well.
– Literary Value-
Strong plot, bland dialogue -> One of the things I love most about this book is the story. I think Mathieu has put together a really compelling plot that works and I love seeing the progression of Vivian’s character. Unfortunately, one of the things that kept this book from being 5 stars is the writing. I felt like, at times, the dialogue between characters is just really bland. Even Vivian’s own inner-monologues can be a bit flat and uninteresting. I wish that the writing had a bit more punch to it, since the story itself is so powerful. It didn’t make me dislike the book, but it did keep me from avidly reading my way through it.
Interesting characters, with a handful of stereotypes -> A make or break for me when it comes to books like this one is character development. I’m happy to say that Vivian is a really excellent character and she’s one of the reasons I think this book is so strong. She’s a beginning feminist, she’s fighting all the knee-jerk reactions to buttoning up her feelings about inequality that society and her town have been pressuring her with her whole life. Mathieu shows her slow progression into activism and feminism and it’s really enjoyable to see her grow over the course of the book. Some of the supporting characters are a bit one-dimensional or stereotypes, but I think it works out alright because Mathieu is working to show, in the best way possible, many elements to gender-inequality and using some recognizable tropes helps with this.
– Entertainment Factor –
Moxie Girls fight back! -> The most entertaining thing about this book is the creation of Moxie Girls, a zine that Vivian puts together to unite the girls of her school in a fight to make things more equal between boys and girls. It’s also a movement that introduces many of the student body to activism. I loved waiting to see what Vivian would come up with next, and seeing Moxie take off, with other girls making their own contributions.
While the writing made things a bit slow for me, the overall story is very compelling and I really enjoyed seeing Vivian, her friends, and the rest of the school get involved in feminism.
– Cover Art –
I think this cover is pretty kick-ass. I love the starkness of the black and white paired with the punch of pink and bolded lettering of the title. Not only does this make for a striking cover, it also is reminiscent of the black and white of a photocopy magazine, like the zines that Vivian makes. And the illustrated figure, rather than having a photograph of a girl, is again along those same lines. I think it’s a very eye-catching cover and I really love it.
| My Rating |
Definitely Worth the Read
Overall, this was a really enjoyable book. I love the careful crafting of a feminist story without it coming across as heavy-handed. I think Mathieu has crafted a really compelling story about a teenage girl who is inspired by her mother’s feminist past to do something about the rampant sexism and misogyny happening at her school. Vivian is a budding feminist, taking steps towards righting what she sees as a serious wrong happening in her community. I also like how Mathieu also introduces activism to the story, because activism is a big part of making change and it makes for a really compelling element to this story.
While I wasn’t particularly wowed by the writing, I think that Mathieu has written a decent book and one that really kicked some ass.
Would I recommend this book?
Absolutely! I think this book has so many things to offer. It’s a really good story, with a strong main character and it discusses some pretty heavy topics in a really constructive way. If you know someone who likes contemporary, realistic fiction this is a good choice! And it’s perfect for the feminist friend in your life.
Thoughts & Thanks
Thank you so much for reading this post. I would love to hear your thoughts on this book if you have read it or even if you haven’t! If you’re considering reading it, let me know what you think, once you do!