A Sexist Review Creates Buzz for Houston Author

Kirkus should have known not to mess with a book subtitled "Moxie girls fight back."

By Brittanie Shey June 16, 2017

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After a summer of buzz, Moxie will be released on Sept. 19.

Hype had already started building for Moxie, the as-yet-unreleased young adult novel by Houston writer Jennifer Matheiu, when it was announced that Paper Kite, the production company helmed by Amy Poehler, had optioned the film rights to the book in January.

But on Wednesday, a tone-deaf review from Kirkus—“the most trusted voice in book discovery”—has launched Twitter blowback and even more positive press for Moxie ahead of the book’s fall 2017 release.

Moxie is the fourth YA novel by Matheiu, who also works as a middle and high school teacher in Bellaire. To say she knows the inner lives of teenage girls in an understatement, considering she also used to be one. Her work often has feminist elements, dealing with issues such as alienation, slut-shaming and empowerment.

In Moxie, a teen girl named Vivian decides to start a zine to combat some of the sexist goings-on at her high school, and goes on to spark a mini-revolution. Moxie is part of a growing trend in YA literature that focuses on rape culture and ways to combat it. 

Kirkus, which was founded in 1933, is generally respected among book circles. But earlier this week, when the website released its review of Moxie, calling it "troubling" and "dangerously vigilante," the blowback was immediate. Twitter users began calling the review out, using the hashtag #moxiegirlsfightback, which Matheiu coined earlier this year to promote the book. Twitter users also took issue with the fact that the review appears to admonish victims who don’t report their rapes to the proper authorities and that the characters refuse to call in men to help them solve their issues.

Several users posted screenshots of their Amazon pre-order receipts and encouraged others to buy copies of the book. In one tweet, Sonia Hartl, who is also a YA author, called the review “victim-blaming trash” and pledged to donate $1 to RAINN, a sexual violence support network, for every pre-order receipt posted to Twitter. Matheiu then pledged to match those donations. (Sidenote: Harlt plans to keep the donation challenge running for two weeks, so if you buy the book, send her proof.) Another user, a librarian named KJ, tweeted that she was buying the book for her local high school’s library.

The debacle was fierce enough that Kirkus issued a multi-tweet statement on Wednesday afternoon saying, in part, that the unsigned review was actually written by a woman, and that the book took a “less-than-nuanced” approached to the issue of sexual violence.

For her part, Matheiu has declined to comment on the review, instead tweeting messages of thanks to her supporters and links to the many positive reviews the book has also earned. Moxie will be released on September 19 and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.

Matheiu will be reading from the novel on October 16 at Brazos Bookstore. And if you just can’t wait until then, you can read an excerpt of the novel for free online.

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