Review: Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Moxie book coverI wish I could remember how I found out about this book, because I’d like to go back and ask for more recommendations, because this was a great read.

Vivian is sick of how girls are treated at her small-town Texas high school, with good reason. The coarse football players can do no wrong. Make overtly sexist comments, wear sexist t-shirts (like GREAT LEGS—WHEN DO THEY OPEN), touch girls without their consent, be general assholes—it’s all cool because football players are kings in Texas. The girls, on the other hand, can’t do anything right. The school holds regular “dress code checks“ where they decide that what girls are wearing is too risqué and they make them put on a giant football jersey to cover up. After all, they can’t be tempting the saintly boys.

Everyone thinks Vivian is a good girl. Her grandparents even call her “dutiful” after she tells them about an incident at school, which gets her hackles up—and which surprises her. She knows she is dutiful, but isn’t sure she wants to be. Because she’s grown up knowing about her mom’s rebellious past. Her mom was a Riot Grrrl in Portland after leaving Texas. Vivian was born there, but her father died in an accident not long afterward and her mom had to move back to Texas so she could get help from Vivian’s grandparents. But Vivian knows about the rebellious times because of a box labeled MY MISSPENT YOUTH, which contains pictures, zines, and other memorabilia from the Riot Grrrl days.

After an incident at school, Vivian’s had it. She makes her own zine called Moxie and secretly distributes it in the girls’ bathrooms before school starts. It points out the unfairness of the school administration and their misdirected punishments, and calls for girls to decorate their hands with stars and hearts on their hands. This is just the beginning of a difficult journey that the girls at her school will take, and it’s fun to watch. Because of course it’s not as simple as that, and the horrible administration is going to fight back with all the misogyny they’ve got (which is a lot).

And while all this is getting started, Vivian meets a cool boy who seems as appalled by the behavior of the boys at the school and the school administration as many of the girls are. I loved her attitude about him:

I decide that Seth Acosta deciding I’m kick-ass is even better than him thinking I’m pretty. Definitely better.

It’s fun—and inspiring—to watch Vivian grow from the dutiful good girl she is at the beginning to a brave and bold girl by the end. The transformation of her friends and the school is mostly believable (maybe a tiny bit idealized, but only a tiny bit). This is a fantastic book about girls both respecting themselves and demanding respect from everyone around them. More teen girls need this message, especially those lost in small towns where misogyny is still par for the course.

I think everyone should read this one because it has some good lessons without being an issue book. I’m looking forward to reading some more of Mathieu’s books, too.

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