“This is what it means to be a feminist. Not a humanist or an equalist or whatever. But a feminist. It’s not a bad word. After today it might be my favorite word. Because really all it is is girls supporting each other and wanting to be treated like human beings in a world that’s always finding ways to tell them they’re not.”
A book about a teen girl coming into her own as a feminist and learning how to fight back against the patriarchy and rape culture? … do you think I could have clicked “request” on this ARC any faster than I did?
At Vivian’s high school, she’s used to certain things being fact: the football players get away with everything, dress codes only affect girls, and sexual harassment is just part of everyday life. When Vivian starts to delve into her mother’s Riot Grrrl past, however, she realizes maybe things don’t have to be this way – so she forms Moxie, an anonymous school ‘zine that invites other girls to band together and fight back.
“Riot Grrrls were into feminism, obviously, but up until this moment in the gym I didn’t think of them as feminists so much as super cool girls who took no shit.”
✘ WHAT I LIKED
– This is, in a nutshell, a YA contemporary about feminism, and that’s a topic that most authors aren’t willing to touch with a ten-foot pole. Not only does Jennifer Mathieu tackle the issue, she does it with finesse and smoothness.
– INTERSECTIONALITY! Vivian is given a firsthand lesson in the problematic aspects of “white feminism” and learns how to take the extra steps needed to ensure complete inclusion of all women (not just the white girls).
– Growth and development. When we first start the story, Vivian has a few problematic views on things, but she is open to listening and learning. There are even a few times where she admits to bristling a little over things she is taught, but she quickly puts her knee-jerk reactions aside and listens.
We also watch several other characters grow a lot – as in the case with Viv’s best friend, who turns her nose up at the thought of feminism in the beginning of the book, but as she learns more about the movement, she steadily becomes more open-minded until she is finally proud to call herself a feminist, too.
– When Viv first starts creating the Moxie ‘zines and working towards dismantling the school’s patriarchal system, she’s so gung-ho about it that she tends to fly off the handle whenever anyone says anything incorrect. I think a lot of feminists have been in her shoes (I know I have, and it took me a few years to learn that I don’t have to get angryat every person who hasn’t been educated).
While the book doesn’t promote turning the other cheek regarding people who willfully ignore sexism (or any other relevant -ism), it does promote giving people the chance to learn and grow, and that is so important! Rome wasn’t built in a day, guys, and you can’t undo a lifetime of indoctrination in one conversation, but when people are making an effort to learn, the most helpful thing we can do is give them a healthy chance.
– Moxie addresses rape culture head on. So many people don’t realize how many ways rape culture affects our day-to-day lives, and I was delighted to watch Vivian not only come to realize how much it affected her and her friends, but to watch her fight back against it. There’s even an aspect where she touches on the fact that men, regardless of their stance on feminism, cannot fully comprehend what women go through, and I swear, I almost put the book down to applaud Jennifer Mathieu for having the guts to go there.
“I’m totally sure he’s not doing it on purpose, but Seth is a guy, and he can’t ever know what it feels like to walk down a hallway and know that you’re getting judged for the size of your ass or how big your boobs are. He’ll never understand what it’s like to second guess everything you wear and how you sit and walk and stand in case it doesn’t attract the right kind of attention or worse, attracts the wrong kind. He’ll never get how scary and crazy-making it is to feel like you belong to some big Boy Monster that decides it can grab you and touch you and rank you whenever and however it wants.“
✘ WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
My only complaint about this book – and the reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 – is that the story itself relies so heavily on the feminist aspect that the parts in between, where we’re just focusing on Viv’s daily life, friendships, romance, etc., fall short a little. The writing felt very young at times, and I actually had to remind myself several times that Viv was a junior in high school, because a lot of her wording and inner monologues just felt more like they were coming from a 14- or 15-year-old, at most.
✘ FINAL VERDICT
Is this book flawless as a contemporary? No. It’s a little mediocre on the story-telling aspect. Is this book a brilliant and fun example of what feminism is intended to be, however? Absolutely! Whether you consider yourself a feminist or not, I feel like everyone could learn something from this book – and you might even be surprised by how hard some of the quotes hit home.
Thank you to NetGalley and Roaring Brook Press for the ARC! All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.