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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jennifer Mathieu's novel Moxie is set in a small-town Texas high school that has long tolerated boys sexually harassing and even assaulting their female classmates. Then one junior girl, Viv Carter, decides it has to stop -- that the girls need to fight back. She anonymously publishes a call-to-action feminist zine titled Moxie and secretly distributes it around the school. Viv's campaign starts small, with girls identifying themselves as Moxie Girls by drawing hearts and stars on their hands. As the school year progresses, the number of Moxie Girls grows, and by the novel's end, they find themselves in a showdown with school officials. Boys are allowed to "bump and grab" girls in the hallways and hold a contest to find the "Most F--kable" girl in the junior or senior class. Profanity is used fairly regularly: "f--k," "d--k," "bulls--t," "hell," and "a--hole." This book can lead to serious discussions between parents and teens about sexual harassment.
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What's the story?
Viv Carter creates the first issue of MOXIE, her feminist zine, because she's had it with boys who have no hesitation about demeaning, touching, verbally tormenting, or sexually harassing the girls in her small-town high school. She distributes the first issue anonymously, and no one suspects that always-follows-the-rules Viv could be behind it. At first, only a few girls show their solidarity by drawing stars and hearts on their hands, but as Viv secretly distributes more issues around the school, more girls join in. They wear bathrobes to school to protest an unfairly applied dress code and slap "You're an A--hole" stickers on the cars, lockers, and backpacks of boys who've harassed girls. In the midst of all this, Viv begins a first romance with Seth, who supports the Moxie Girl movement (but not always strongly enough for Viv). But the more empowered the girls become, the more school administrators become determined to stop them. When a girl comes forward to accuse the principal of refusing to listen when she told him she'd been raped by a football player, the Moxie Girls decide it's time to risk it all by staging a walkout.
Is it any good?
Inspiring and insightful, this feminist coming-of-age story has a strong message of can-do empowerment for readers who feel helpless in the face of sexual harassment. Moxie should open the door to serious and honest discussions between teens (both girls and boys) and their parents about what constitutes sexual harassment and what can be done if that culture exists in their school.
There's also a discussion to be had about how far the actions of a movement like the Moxie Girls can go in real life. While identifying harassers with stickers or staging a walkout work well in the novel, they might not be the most productive actions in all situations.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the culture of sexual harassment in Moxie. Does anything like this exist at your school? If girls at your school stand up to boys who harass them, what's the response from other students and school administrators?
Do you think the author unfairly singles out football players as the ones who commit the worst offenses toward girls? Do you think athletes often get a free pass when it comes to bad behavior?
Where do you think the line should be drawn: When is it just boys joking around with girls and when does it cross the line into harassment?
Themes & Topics
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