Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

A couple of months ago I saw a Netflix trailer for a movie called “Moxie.” It was set to be released on March 3, 2021. Looking further, I discovered that it was a book. Exciting news, so I placed it on hold, determined to read it before I watched the movie.

A bit of background before starting the review — the young adult novel “MOXIE” was published in 2017 by JENNIFER MATHIEU, and comedian Amy Poehler, who is also the director of the Netflix movie, is quoted on the cover of the book as saying, “Moxie” is sweet, funny, and fierce. Read this and then join the fight.”

Quiet, dependable, rule-following Vivian Carter has had enough of her small town high school’s tendency to support male football players over anyone else. The football players, especially principal’s son and quarterback Mitchell Wilson, get away with treating the girls at East Rockport High as second class citizens. Mitchell and his buddies continually harass Vivian’s classmates and friends, and despite complaints from the female students to the school’s administration, they are never disciplined, punished or even corrected.

The school administration’s lack of support for the females at the school shows through in the form of surprise dress code checks focused completely on the females, not doing anything about hallway and classroom harassment, and hosting expensive pep rallies for an average football team, while the winning girls’ soccer team wears dated uniforms and gets little recognition.

Inspired by her mom’s Riot Grrrl past and a box of paraphernalia labeled “My Misspent Youth” that she discovers in the attic, Vivian creates a zine that she is soon distributing, anonymously, from the restrooms at East Rockport High. Her first call to action is mild, with a request to decorate hands with stars and hearts, but after continued harassment, Vivian and Moxie supporters put an ambitious call forward that has the principal threatening suspensions for anyone participating.

Poehler’s book cover quote is accurate, Moxie is “sweet, funny, and fierce.” Vivian’s character is hard not to like, even when she’s acting like a stereotypical, hard-to-understand teenager. Her growth through the story is marked and interesting to follow. As is that of her friends, mom — all those around her. While she is the lead in the book, there are many strong supporting characters and Mathieu does a good job developing their personalities. It is a good introduction for teens to the topics of female empowerment, zine creation, and the Riot Grrrl movement of the ‘90s.

About the movie — I did watch it after I finished the book, but as is my usual experience with book-to-movie offerings, it was not my favorite. I liked the book so much better.

It must be hard to translate a book into film and keep all the fun things about it. I do not envy screenwriters and directors this challenge. They changed a lot of the original storyline — the calls to action, who was the top administrator, even how the zines were created — and I am not sure why. I do not feel like the changes made the film any more interesting, but I was probably too focused on the changes to really enjoy it.

I will say though, the movie props were great — I loved Vivian’s room decorations — and the diversity of the cast was refreshing.

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