I’m so excited to bring you all my book of the month review for Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu! I really enjoyed this book, but more importantly, I really wish it had existed for me in high school. I’m going to try so hard to not wander off on tangents about the importance of Title IX and how Betsy DeVos is making me distraught, but I make no promises because it’s very relevant. So, let’s get started!
I don’t think I had a clear grasp of what this book was about based on the buzz I heard and how it seemed vaguely incompatible with the way the blurb is written. So I’m going to provide you with the blurb from the inside flap here and let you know that this is what the book is, in fact, about.
Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school where 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 friendship with 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.
The first few chapters, Vivian’s character is established as more of an observer in her own life. She has a group of three friends, who she spends all of her time with, but otherwise, she just tries to keep her head down in class, not wanting to draw attention to herself. This meant that even when Viv was observing really problematic things, she didn’t intervene, even when all that was needed was inviting the new girl, Lucy, to join her and her friends at lunch. So at first, I found myself so annoyed with Vivian. I wanted her to be ready to take on the world from page one or something, I don’t know. It took me a bit to realize that part of why I was so uncomfortable reading about Vivian was because of how much she reminded me of myself in high school. This quote sums up Vivvy in the beginning quite well:
“Lying there, staring at the ceiling, listening to Claudia breathe, I realize I’m waiting. Waiting for what, I’m not sure. Maybe for the sound of my mother’s keys in the front door. Or maybe for something important to start.”
Eventually, Viv really does start to blossom and to try and do something. It’s a slow process though. Even after she distributes the first zine, she’s still more comfortable staying silent. Her character growth and Claudia’s character growth, I thought were extremely realistic and compelling.
I felt like this book was a very good introduction to feminism, but I would love to see more books that go deeper. This felt like Feminism 101 and I (as a full-grown adult) am ready for Feminism 400, which is why I should probably be reading Roxanne Gay (who gets a shout out!) instead of Moxie but that’s neither here nor there.
I thought the way it introduces the concept of intersectionality was good, in the sense that I think it’s a realistic thing for white women to struggle with at first because, as Viv says, “We hardly ever talk about race stuff at East Rockport. Hell, we hardly ever talk about it at home either.” But I do wonder if this wouldn’t make the book less welcoming to non-white readers? I’m obviously incapable of speaking for non-white readers, so I will just say that thinking of myself in high school, any introduction to feminism would have been helpful. I recall talking about race exactly once in school, and that was when Officer Lucas talked about how apprehensive he and his wife were to move into our county because he was the first black man, they were the first interracial couple, and their children were the first biracial children in our county. I’m 25, by the way, so this was only a decade ago. I mean, now, my county is “significantly” more diverse, which is to say, it’s still mostly white, but there are more non-white people than ten.
So, if I think about this book from a personal perspective, I think it’s incredibly important, but I’m not sure I would give a blanket recommendation to teens who maybe already know a ton about feminism and intersectionality. However, perhaps it would be nice for them to have a book about feminism, regardless? Not sure, but I hope this helps you decide for yourself!
I’m resisting the urge to go on a tangent about the way that sexual assault is treated in this book (realistically) and to talk about Seth (#NOTALLMEN), but if you’ve read this book and you want to talk more about it, let me know in the comments or email me! I assure you, I have a million more opinions, but I think it’s best I don’t leave them all here.
Anyway, I hope that if you gave this book a shot this month, you’ll let me know your thoughts!