All year, I have been on the hunt for a really good YA book. I have to be honest, the search wasn’t going very well and I was beginning to give up on the genre entirely until I saw Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu pop up on my Goodreads feed. I am so glad I found this book towards the end of this year because it has really spurred me on to read more and, hopefully, smash that fifty book goal I set myself in January.
“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.”
For so long I have been on the hunt for a YA book about feminism that is actually about feminism and not just the very basic and oh so cheesy ‘girl power’ mantra (don’t get me wrong, that’s a good starting point but we can do so much better). I have finally found it in Moxie. When Vivian starts anonymously writing and distributing zines around her school to combat the constant sexism that is being allowed to go on, she has no idea the impact it will have. Soon, the Moxie zine turns into a full-scale revolution and begins to bridge the unspoken divides between cliques and breaks down the popularity structures amongst the girls at East Rockport High School.
Perhaps the best thing about this book is that it deals with intersectional feminism in a way that accessible to younger teens who may just be starting to learn about feminism. When one character expresses that the Moxie movement could do more to include people of colour, Vivian admits that, as a white girl, she was unaware of this issue and quickly does what she can to be more inclusive and ensure that all girls feel welcome. It would have been nice if Mathieu was more inclusive of disabled girls and LQBTQ+ girls (there were two gay characters but their scene was very short and it was never bought up again). It also would have been interesting if there was the inclusion or discussion of how these girls would treat a transgender character. However, I appreciate that, perhaps, Mathieu does not have experience of these issues and didn’t feel comfortable writing about them in the right way. I also understand the danger of tokenising characters. In the Notes from the Author section at the back of the book, Mathieu includes links to sites for girls who want to learn more and all of these sites are intersectional and welcome are girls.
One of my main issues with most of the YA books I’ve read is that the authors never seem to understand teenagers and so revert to stereotypes and cliches such as making the girls say ‘OMG’ and use the word ‘like’ in every single sentence. They’re boy obsessed and talk about make-up, there’s always a group of popular girls (who are hated by the main character because she’s ‘not like other girls’) who seem like exact copies of Regina George from Mean Girls. Moxie, however, had none of that. Mathieu has written a group of well rounded, flawed, yet likeable girl friends. They have the usual friendship dilemmas such as Viv’s lifelong best friend Claudia being jealous when she starts to befriend the new girl in her class. There is a popular girl but there are no judgemental comments because she’s a cheerleader and because she is popular amongst the jock boys. Even though she is only a side character, she gets her own story arc and development. None of the characters were perfect but they were realistic and I think that’s so important in YA fiction.
Vivian was not perfect and was frequently trying to learn more about how to be a better feminist. At the very beginning of the book, she stays quiet when a boy in her class shouts at another girl to go and make him a sandwich. It is the guilt of this event that makes Vivian realise she can do better and ultimately inspires her to start Moxie. I appreciated the inclusion of Vivian standing back because all of us, no matter how strongly we identify as feminists, have had moments when we haven’t spoken out or helped somebody because we were scared of how it would affect us. Whislt we should always strive to do better next time, everybody falls short some times and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it.
It wouldn’t be a YA book without a cute, if not ever so slightly cheesey love story. This one is no exception but whilst Vivian’s crush, Seth, is ever so dreamy and supports all her Moxie endeavours, he has his own internalised mysogyny. Vivian doesn’t ignore this or let it slide because it was just the one comment, she calls him out on his bullsh*t. It’s so refreshing to read a novel that doesn’t have girls who are souly concerned with finding boyfriends but also doesn’t shame girls who do have crushes and boyfriends.
Can you tell I really liked this book? There’s so much more I want to say but I don’t want to make this the longest blog post ever written, so, if you want to talk more, I would be more than happy to discuss and swap notes in the comments!
Remember: Moxie girls fight back!