Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Edition: ARC paperback
Publication date: 21st September 2017
Read: 29th – 31st August 2017
TWs: Sexual harassment, discussions of rape/sexual assault.
‘Moxie girls fight back!’
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.
I went into Moxie expecting a fun high school story that didn’t take itself too seriously and gave feminism a nod. What I got instead was a punchy, fervent story about a feminist revolution among teens that left me feeling empowered and ready to punch the patriarchy with renewed zeal.
Moxie is far more than just your average high school coming-of-age story, it’s a coming of agency and a coming of ardour. Fundamentally, this is a novel about revolution; teenage girls in a small-town high school begin learning how their voices can help them unite against injustice. There’s romance and definitely drama, but these are secondary to the feminist message.
The book tackles everything from microaggressions against black and POC girls, to allegations of sexual assault. It explores white privilege and male entitlement in a way that educates rather than pointing blame, and brilliantly illustrates why ‘Not All Men’ is such a harmful mantra to recite.
At times, the story did play to US high school stereotypes a little too much, suggesting that the jocks ‘ruled the school’ and the boys’ soccer team got almost all the school’s funding, which was a little unrealistic when you consider that the school would have had to audit its budget. But this was a minor issue when the book so adeptly wove history and female empowerment into the everyday issues of teenage life.
There are latina and black girls who play notable roles in the book, and the discussion of white and intersectional feminism were handled well. There are also two gay couples, but I would have still liked to see the representation go further, especially in regard to the f/f romance that was touched on briefly but not developed.
Character development was a real strong point in Moxie. Viv begins the book angry at the normalisation of sexism in the school, but uncertain how she can change things. As she draws inspiration from her mom’s old Riot Grrrl zines and creates Moxie, her confidence, belief, and righteousness grow. She begins to challenge her friends and boyfriend to step up and fight back against toxic masculinity. Her endeavours heat up in the final stages of the novel, and the fight for equality comes to a resoundingly formidable ultimatum.
Moxie is such an important book because it shows feminism as a positive force for good, and illustrates how the movement can be used to change lives. I hope teenagers everywhere pick up this book because it has the potential to build their self-confidence, and open their eyes to what feminism can truly achieve.