Author: Jennifer Mathieu
I heard of Moxie for the first time at YALC last year and really wanted to get an ARC of it (because you know, feminism) but unfortunately was unlucky and didn’t manage to. Then thankfully, my wonderful #otspsecretsister from the last round of the Secret Sister project, got me this book as part of my November package and I just this month, finally got around to reading it! I didn’t love it quite as much as The Exact Opposite of Okay, but I think it’s aimed towards a different type of feminist, TEOOO is more established feminist, the main character in that labels herself a feminist and is very sure of herself and her identity, whereas this book is more about finding your place in feminism, and at two years younger than Izzy, Viv is a little more unsure of herself and her role in the feminist movement. This would be an excellent starter book for younger feminists, who aren’t quite sure of themselves yet and don’t know how they can make a difference, it was empowering for me and I’m pretty assured and confident in my identity as a feminist, so I can’t imagine how empowering it would be for a 15/16 year old who isn’t quite sure of themselves yet! Here is a short synopsis of the book:
It’s time to fight like a girl!
Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her high school teachers who think 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 mum 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 Moxie, a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond and spread the Moxie message. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realises that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.
TIME TO FIGHT LIKE A GIRL
A page-turning read with a feminist message, for anyone who has ever had to deal with #everydaysexism
I really liked Viv, she was unsure of herself at the beginning, didn’t know what she could do or how she could help with everything that was happening at her school, but she grew into it and became more confident in her fight against sexism. She’s a realistically drawn and relatable teen, she has more experience with fantasy boyfriends than real ones (aka me at sixteen, plenty of book boyfriends, not even the hint of a real one), she wants to keep her head down and avoid trouble, doesn’t want to do anything to get too noticed, wants to make her mum and grandparents proud and most of all get out of her small town, and I think there’s definitely a lot that teenage girls will be able to relate to in her character, I certainly did (and I’m no longer sixteen!). There were moments when Viv irritated me, like when she was all over Seth & couldn’t stop thinking about him and when she was lying to her friends about Moxie, even when they were getting into trouble for it, but I feel like the over-obsession about a boyfriend is probably pretty normal for a teen girl (I didn’t have a boyfriend at sixteen, so please correct me if I’m wrong) and I did understand why she didn’t want anyone to know about Moxie.
It was lovely to see a YA character that had a close relationship with their parent! It’s such a rarity that we even see parents in YA (though I’ll admit, mainly a fantasy reader, so I’m used to a hell of a lot of orphans!), so it was lovely to see how close Viv and her Mum were and I liked that Viv’s issues with her mum dating played a role in the story, because that’s a pretty natural issue for a daughter of a single mum to have (also yay for single mums, very underrepresented group in fiction!). It would have been nice if there had been more interaction between Viv and the boyfriend as she basically pretty much prejudges him for being a Republican without really getting to know him and because Viv doesn’t get to know him, neither do we, so we have no idea if her hatred of him is founded or not. It also seemed contrary to their relationship that Viv didn’t tell her mum about Moxie sooner, especially given that she got the idea from her mum’s Riot Grrrl zines. As well as her mum, we also get to see Viv with her grandparents, which is an even rarer occurrence in YA.
I didn’t quite understand why Viv’s mum didn’t help her more with her issues at school, especially since she went to the same high school and is a feminist herself, she must have known what the school was like, so it seems strange that she wouldn’t have tried to help her daughter out a little. It seemed strange that the school was so sexist and not a single one of the parents called them out on it, even though they must have heard at least a little of what was going on from their kids. I find it hard to believe a real school would be able to get away with ignoring so much bad behaviour, but then I went to school in the UK and stuff like that was never really an issue in any of the schools I was in (though granted, I went to an all girls school for three years, and the two years I was at a mixed school, I was younger and although boys bullied me, it wasn’t sexual harrassment).
The romance was nice, but I felt it was ultimately unnecessary. Seth was really there to play up the “not all men” angle, which he uses a lot in the book, to infuriating effect and I reckon he could have served the same role as a friend of Viv’s not necessarily her boyfriend. Still Seth was sweet, and I appreciated that Mathieu didn’t make him out to be the perfect ally, and showed that even though he was supportive, as a guy, there are certain things he just didn’t “get”. It was nice to see a supportive, healthy relationship in YA, even if I didn’t think the book necessarily needed the romance.
I loved that this book was all about girls supporting girls and that there was no unnecessary girl on girl hate! Like I am all here for these supportive female friendships, we need more of them. Even when it seemed like there was potential for some girl on girl hate, with Viv’s old friend Claudia and her new friend Lucy, it never materialised and though the two girls aren’t exactly best buddies at first, they do support each other and eventually grow to be good friends, which I loved.
I loved Viv’s friend Lucy, she was so happy and bubbly but also fierce and feminist and willing to fight to make the school better and I reckon if she was real, then we would probably be friends.
I did feel like the story dragged at points, the chapters were overly long and there were a lot of sections in the middle where not much was happening, it was just Viv hanging out with and mooning over Seth.
I liked that the book showed all different types of feminists, some who are loud and proud like Lucy, some who come into it more slowly like Viv and some who need a little more convincing, like Claudia. I feel like the media has a tendency to portray feminists as a kind of monolithic group and that’s not really true at all.
There were some attempts at intersectionality, through black side characters, Viv’s friends Claudia and Lucy are Hispanic and there is an f/f relationship shown briefly, but I think the author could have gone much deeper with it, some parts did feel a bit tokenistic. It’s nice that the author made sure that Moxie was inclusive, making a point about the Riot Grrrls not being, but I think she could have gone a lot further with it.
I liked the inclusion of the actual zines in the book, I thought they were a really cool idea and it was great that we got to see them.
It was kind of funny that when Viv talked about her classes, she only ever talked about History and English! Like we get that you’re not going to show every single aspect of a character’s school day, but maybe mix it up with a different class every now and then so it doesn’t look like your character only takes two subjects!
I loved that Seth asked Viv for permission to kiss her for the first time, it was super cute and a really easy way to get consent into the book-it’s really simple authors, you should all be doing it! I saw a couple of reviewers saying that it was wrong of Viv to expect Seth to kiss her first, but we’ve all been brought up in a patriarchal society, everyone has a few hangups because of that, and speaking from personal experience, I was ridiculously nervous when I had my first kiss, so I appreciated that I wasn’t the one who initiated it!
I would have liked a little more nuance in the male characters in this. For the most part, they’re all kind of one dimensional sexist pigs (except Seth), and whilst there are lots of guys who are like that, most sexism is less blatant and more insidious, not all sexists are as outwardly awful as the boys in this book, sometimes it can just be an innocent seeming but incredibly loaded comment and it would have been nice to see a little more nuance there!
There are mentions of sexual assault throughout this book, so that’s something to bear in mind, if that would be triggering for you. I didn’t love that Viv’s friend Claudia only came into Moxie because of sexual assault and whilst I’m sure that sexual assault can inspire a desire for feminism in someone, it made me feel rather uncomfortable and it wasn’t the only instance of this happening in the book either.
I liked that the author wanted to link Moxie to the Riot Grrrl movement and talk about feminist bands of the 90’s but this kind of backfired when it seemed like the only 90’s punk band the author knew was Bikini Kill!
It might have been nice to see a few more male allies to the Moxie movement, but I did love that the book was so focused on female empowerment.
The book is perhaps a little short to deal with all of the nuanced issues involved in feminism, and I reckon it is probably better for younger readers as the writing kind of read that way, like it was aimed more towards the younger end of the YA spectrum, like 13-15 rather than 16-18. I think that’s good though, since YA tends to focus on characters at the older end of the spectrum, it’s nice to find a YA book that whilst it might focus on a 16 year old, could easily be read and enjoyed by a younger teen (and I would say younger teens might get more out of it, since it’s all about discovering your feminist voice).
Overall, I really liked this book, it had it’s issues, definitely could have used more intersectionality, but as an introduction to feminism for younger readers, I think it did it’s job really well and I felt really empowered by reading it, so I would definitely shove this in the hands of young teen readers, in the age of #metoo and #timesup, books like this are more important than ever!
My Rating: 3.5/5
BECHDEL TEST: PASS-So many conversations between different named female characters about things other than boys, mostly related to Moxie.
My next review will be of Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood, which I’m finally almost done with!