mox·ie/ˈmäksē/ noun – force of character, determination, or nerve.
We should all have a little bit of moxie in our lives. When someone says that you have moxie, it means that you have a fighting spirit and that you don’t give up easily. Sometimes you have to have moxie in order to fight for what is right, to stand up when you see something that isn’t fair. I love the idea of empowering the next generation of girls with moxie. So it will come as no surprise that I ADORED Jennifer Mathieu’s novel, Moxie.
First of all, let me tell you how I heard about this book. I have been a driving force in helping my brother develop his classroom library for 7th and 8th grade English in Los Angeles. My pet peeve about classroom libraries is that teachers don’t always know the books out there that their students might gravitate toward. Unfortunately, his school also doesn’t have an actual library, so classroom libraries are imperative. Anyway, we’ve been having fun watching his kids adore the books, but this time one of his students recommended a book to him and then he recommended it to me (before he even read it). When I read the summary on Goodreads, I knew that it was going to be good. I didn’t realize it was going to be great.
Moxie tells the story of Vivian Carter, a girl living in a small-town in Texas. Vivian Carter is a “good girl.” She lives with her mom, her dad died when she was very young, and her grandparents live next door. She keeps her head down and focuses on the end goal of getting out of her small Texas town. Vivian never really thought about the negatives of her town until Lucy shows up. Lucy is the latest target of Mitchell Wilson, football star and son of the school’s principal. He calls out things like “Make me a sandwich!” which, as Vivian explains it, means that “girls belong in the kitchen and they shouldn’t have opinions.”
Vivian’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, wanted to get out of their small town as soon as she finished high school, and created zines with her friends that were feminist and political. They listened to punk rock that sang about the issues they were dealing with. Vivian’s outrage with acceptable behavior at her high school grows and she winds up creating a zine and distribute it secretly in the girls’ bathroom. She includes a call for action, but does anyone agree with her, or is she blowing things out of proportion? Turns out Moxie was the spark that everyone needed to stand up for themselves.
The Moxie zine starts a revolution. Girls have never felt comfortable being groped, shamed, harassed, and pushed around, but it is easier to confront a bully when you are not the only one suffering. There is definitely power in numbers. What starts as an emotional outlet for one girl becomes a driving force for a whole group. One girl starts a bake sale to fund uniforms for the girls’ soccer team and later someone else throws a girls only party for the same fundraiser. The school wants “moxie” shut down, but that’s hard to do when it seems to have taken on a life of its own.
Moxie is an important read for young women and even young men. The biggest takeaway has to do with girls not being willing to settle for double standards and harassment. Mathieu also addresses the notion of girls holding each other up instead of tearing each other down and that it is hard to understand what another sex or race is feeling if you have not actually experienced it yourself.
Moxie is not a male-bashing book. Moxie is a book about girls taking power over their bodies and expecting respect from those around them. It reminds us that we never know what a person has gone through until we walk through their shoes and that how one appears on the outside does not always reflect what they are going through on the inside.
There is a bit of romance in this, but that story line was more about showing various sides of men. Seth is one of the few guys at Vivian’s school who isn’t a jerk, though said with more colorful language. He agrees with most of what she says, but struggles when someone cries rape. Fortunately, he is given a chance to learn rather than being written off as a dumb jerk.
I loved this book. I highly recommend this for all high school libraries.