Steve Tetreault's Reviews > Moxie

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
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really liked it
bookshelves: coming-of-age, female, feminist, marginalized, realistic-fiction, romance, school, young-adult

What it's about: Vivian is a junior in a small Texas high school where football rules, even if she doesn't like it. She is a "good kid" - she follows directions, she avoids trouble, she is quiet. She's pretty much the opposite of what her mother was in high school - Vivvy's mom was a self-professed "Riot Grrrl" who was always looking for ways to bring women together and jam up authority. Viv loves looking through her mom's old things and listening to her old music, but she has a hard time understanding why her mom did what she did. And now her mom just wants Viv to do well in school so Viv can go to a good college and get out of their tiny town.

Vivian's friends are "good kids" too - they keep to themselves and just want to make it through the day without drawing any attention to themselves. But as her junior year starts, Vivian notices that the new girl, Lucy, is having a hard time fitting in. The football players are giving her a hard time and being gross. And Viv starts to get an idea of why her mom was the way she was.

After one too many insults from the football team, Viv decides someone has to do something - even if that someone has to be her. She anonymously creates a zine called "Moxie" to pass around the school, and pretty soon, things are not as they were. But as "Moxie" gains steam, things get more serious, and pretty soon Viv is in danger of expulsion. Viv's not sure if she has the moxie needed to be the change she wants to see.

What I thought: I wish GoodReads allowed incremental ratings, 'cause I'd give Moxie 4.5 stars. I really appreciated how this book clearly illustrates how casual misogyny can be ingrained in a culture to the point where it is nearly invisible, and how that wears away at women. It also provides some insight into the casual racism and division that often spring up in high schools as students seek to find comfort in similarity. There is also a nod to the difficulties faced by LGBTQ+ students, though it's very much an in-passing moment and isn't really expanded upon.

This book was published in 2017, which suggests that it was started before the 2016 election. So in a way, it's a bit prophetic in its consideration of some of these issues and how teens are forced to live in a community that raises up some who may not deserve that elevation, and who are then considered untouchable as they behave in vile ways.

I was rather dismayed to consider that Moxie might not be fiction for a lot of young women; it very specifically points out how the Riot Grrrl movement of the '80s and '90s worked so hard to bring some equality to women. And yet, still, young women face many of the same issues of entrenched inequality and misogyny as their mothers, who, sadly, were trying to move beyond those same issues as were faced by their mothers, and their grandmothers. It's sad and upsetting that we have made so little progress in finding equality; but Mathieu's book reminds readers that change is possible. It's not easy, but if even a small group of like-minded people come together to make things better, then change can happen.

I clearly have been reading too many high-drama YA books - I kept expecting things to take much darker turns or for characters who seem good to be secretly terrible. Instead, the folks in this story are pretty much what they seem to be - as most people probably are.

I also really liked how instructive this book was in its attempts to explain why a lot of "normal" behavior is actually just grinding away at young women's sense of self-worth, safety, and self-respect, and needs to be changed. I feel like the reactions of the male characters when this was explained to them, and the way it fell on sympathetic-but-still-deaf ears was, unfortunately, quite realistic. But perhaps seeing the story from the inside can help teen guys see that a lot of times, "normal" is not the same as "okay."

One other things I liked in this book was Viv's budding romance. She deals with her developing relationship in a very thoughtful way -she's incredibly excited by it, and she enjoys herself, but she is also thinking about what she wants and what she needs. Her initial fear and awkwardness felt incredibly real. I really liked how she advocated for herself as things moved along. I liked the model created of what a teen relationship could look like - mutual respect, discussion of expectations, consent, and enjoyment mingled with thoughtfulness and respect. I also liked that Viv managed to maintain a very healthy balance between her romantic interests and her other interests - as much as she is thrilled by her relationship, it doesn't consume her life.

Why I rated it like I did: Mathieu's writing flows very smoothly along. The story develops well and is paced decently. I was not a huge fan of how the time jumps are incorporated; although it is realistic that it would take months for some of these events to spin out as they do, every jump seems to come out of the blue and is pretty abrupt. One moment, we're in a detailed moment-by-moment description of a day, then suddenly it's "Two months later, we were..."

But this is an important story, in that I think it could help teens see that feel like they are on the outside perhaps realize they are not as outside as they feel - there are others who are in similar situations. Finding those others who feel similarly can help anyone feel less alone. It is also a great reminder that sometimes when it feels like the world is against you, it's because it is - but you don't have to just live with that.
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Reading Progress

July 21, 2019 – Started Reading
July 22, 2019 – Finished Reading
July 23, 2019 – Shelved
July 23, 2019 – Shelved as: coming-of-age
July 23, 2019 – Shelved as: female
July 23, 2019 – Shelved as: feminist
July 23, 2019 – Shelved as: marginalized
July 23, 2019 – Shelved as: realistic-fiction
July 23, 2019 – Shelved as: romance
July 23, 2019 – Shelved as: school
July 23, 2019 – Shelved as: young-adult

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