Book Review – Moxie, Jennifer Mathieu

I’ve had the good luck lately to come across a few “one-seat” reads, something I hadn’t experienced in years. Moxie was one of these, and I’m so glad I finally got around to picking it up. I’d actually checked it out weeks ago, and it had been languishing on my desk at work since. After slogging through That Inevitable Victorian Thing (which dragged on to a relatively satisfying ending, I guess) I was ready for something different. I hadn’t planned to start Moxie, even then. But I left the Rick Riordan book I’d meant to read next at home, and well, Moxie was just sitting right there, wasn’t it? So I cracked it open before my desk shift and gave it a go.

Bad librarian confession: sometimes, I read on the front desk. Usually this isn’t an issue. I can be aware of what’s going around me even while I’m reading, I tell myself. But that wasn’t really the case with Moxie. It was such a strong, engrossing read that I found myself pretty much dead to the world in the couple hours it took me to race through it.

There have been some pretty great feminist reads recently, like The Female of the Species, another book I blew through not too long ago. But Moxie definitely stands out. If I could make one complaint about the book, it’s that its feminism is just too ideal, too perfect. It lacks the faults that modern day feminism has in the form of diversity and inclusion. In Mathieu’s novel, it’s perfectly intersectional. White girls, girls of color, straight girls, queer girls, good girls, bad girls, all of them rally under the banner of Moxie. Trans representation was the only thing lacking, but perhaps understandably so given the book’s small-town Texas setting.

Mathieu’s protagonist Viv is fantastic. She’s a believable teenage girl who mostly prefers to fly under the radar, but is much like any other kid. She has her friends, goes to football games, crushes on guys, so on and so forth. She’s motivated to start the titular zine by the gross sexism in her school and hometown, and in part by a shoebox full of reminders of her mother’s rebellious days. She’s not looking to change the world – she’s just frustrated and angry, a feeling most women are probably well familiar with. Who hasn’t been subjected to bullshit dress codes, been told that “boys will be boys” when something shitty happens? I can remember being in high school and helping a classmate staple her skirt’s hemline back up after admins tore it out for being “too short” when really, she was just damn tall. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook these little microaggressions. Sometimes you need to do something about it.

There’s no stone left unturned. Even the issue of well-meaning male allies is addressed in a satisfying manner. I was a little worried about what to expect from the ending – unfortunately, even movements that start with the best intentions unravel thanks to bullshit red tape and the workings of the machine. Without spoiling too much, I can say that Moxie wrapped up on a positive note. It even made me cry a little. Luckily there weren’t any small children around to be alarmed.

If you’re ready to be angry and excited and thrilled all in short succession, I definitely recommend Moxie. If you’re looking for something to give a girl for the holidays, I recommend Moxie. If you’re looking for something to give a boy for the holidays, I recommend Moxie. Moxie for everyone, all day, every day! You won’t regret it.

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