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Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu - Review

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Where did I get it? I bought it, I had it on pre-order. I follow Jen on Twitter and am always excited to read a new book from her. Especially this one as it's about feminism and zines! 

What's it about? Vivian is a junior at high school in East Rockport, Texas, a small town where nothing much happens and where the high school football team rules everyone's social life. Each Friday, the entire town closes for the football game. Vivian usually attends with her friends and her mother and grandparents. 

Viv's mum was a 90s Riot Grrrl, who moved to Portland to find the scene there but had to move back after the death of Viv's dad when Viv was a small child. She keeps a box labelled My Misspent Youth, and Vivian sometimes rifles through it, looking at the zines that her mum made. 

One day, star football player Mitchell Wilson is rude and sexist towards new girl Lucy, and Vivian has had enough of the sexism rampant around the school. From boys saying "make me a sandwich" to them bumping into girls and grabbing them before running off, Vivian is fed up. So she makes a zine called Moxie and leaves it in girls' bathrooms before school one morning. In order for girls to show support, she suggests they should draw hearts and stars on their hands that Friday.

She's thrilled when people do, including Lucy, who she ends up being friends with. Over the next few months Moxie takes on a life of its own and the girls in the school learn how to fight back against the sexism they receive from boys, but also against systemic sexism like arbitrary dress codes. Viv really comes into her own in confidence as Moxie grows.

Meanwhile, her mum has started dating a colleague called John, who happens to be a Republican voter, even though Viv's mum is really liberal. Viv doesn't understand what her mum sees in him and has to try to come to terms with his involvement in her mum's life. There's also a new boy at school, Seth, who Viv has a crush on. She eventually starts a relationship with him, her first ever. Seth knows about Moxie and keeps telling Viv that not all guys are like Mitchell and co. Vivian knows that, but she is frustrated that he just doesn't get it. I actually thought these two things - John and Seth and Viv's reactions to them - were the truest parts of the book. There are parts when Viv and Seth argue and get frustrated and they are so true and real to life. I liked Seth, I loved how real he was while also being a total dish. I would have liked a little bit more resolution to Viv's mum and John's storyline, but it doesn't detract from the novel in total. 

I am a zinester myself. You can buy my zines here if you'd like to! I loved this part of the book. I honestly believe that zines are little political protests and can change the world. I loved how Vivian explained what zines were and was Riot Grrrl was. I am a little bit too young for Riot Grrrl but I of course know about it and like some of the bands. I felt like Jen really expressed the history well for new readers. 

While the novel is simple, it isn't simplistic. There's lots going on and Vivian is really well drawn and an utterly likeable character. 

What age range is it for? Anything from fourteen plus, probably

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, race is mentioned a few times. While Viv is white, there are parts when some of her friends who are other races mention how that intersects with the sexism they face. I thought this was nicely done. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? Viv and Seth have a really frank conversation about sex which I thought was perfect without being preachy. There's no sexual activity, though. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? A little about Viv's dad, but not much 

Are there swear words? Yes, quite a few - I actually loved this and thought it was one of the most natural and realistic portrayals of teenagers that I've read recently. Teenagers swear. A lot. 

What criticisms do I have? To begin with I thought Seth was a bit too perfect, a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Boy, but that may be just because Vivian didn't know him very well. I was frustrated by the inactions of the school administrators but this is probably really true to life too. I have very little to criticise! 

Would I recommend the book? Yes with my whole heart! Zines and feminism and badass girls, oh my! 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I really loved Devoted by Jen, so I couldn't wait to read this as soon as it arrived. 

What other books is it like? I only know one other YA book which talks about zines and that's Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger which I read about six years ago. I think Moxie is also quite a lot like Becoming Betty by Eleanor Wood in the way it focuses on female friendship. 

How many stars? Four out of five, utterly recommended. 


Where is the book going now? I'll keep it for sure, but I think my friend Laura would like to read it first as she's also a feminist and a zinester!

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