Tournament of Books, Round Three: Moxie vs Allegedly

At this point in the Tournament of Books, the books are not necessarily related to one another. They aren’t necessarily the same genre or even the same format. That being said, I happened to get two contemporary and novels that explore timely issues which made the comparison a little more clear-cut for me.

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

moxieMoxie is about Vivian Carter. She has lived in the same small Texas town her entire life. It is a place where football rules and football players are allowed to do whatever they want to whomever they want. Viv has had enough. Inspired by her mom’s Riot Grrrl teens, she creates Moxie an anonymous zine to empower her fellow female students to start fighting back. It starts slowly but it isn’t long until Moxie builds into a movement. It is a good book. It is a good introduction to feminism and starting a movement. It isn’t as good at intersectionality and it is pretty tidy. That being said, this is a great introduction to the idea of feminism and finding your voice when you feel you don’t have one.

Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson

41Pkis9KXqL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Allegedly is the story of Mary B. Addison who killed a baby when she was nine. Allegedly. She is out of jail and living in a group home. Her vision of what her life could be now is not aligned with the vision of the justice system or the public that convicted her six years ago. She didn’t have much of a reason to set the story straight until she met Ted and became pregnant. Now she needs to speak up to keep her baby. This is one of those books that you think you have figured out, until you don’t. And then you don’t again. It also isn’t a perfect book. Maybe it would have been better if you knew what happened at the end and worked your way through from there? It is compelling, sad, and gritty. It is a look inside the juvenile justice system from a new angle. It is also definitely worth reading.

And the winner is…


Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson

I read Moxie first so I was pretty sure as I was reading Allegedly that I knew it was going to eke its way out in front for me. It turns out that the last chapter of Allegedly made this round a buzzerbeater (to borrow a sportsball phrase) but ultimately it was the stronger book. Allegedly goes to the next round.


Becca Boland is the Teen Librarian/Assistant Head of Popular Materials at the Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich. She has been a proud teen librarian for over a decade and was honored to receive the ILA Young Adult Librarian of the Year Award in 2016. She talks about books (teen and otherwise) on Ela’s podcast, Three Books.


Back to Round Three, Bracket Three


Tournament of Books, Round Two: Moxie vs Prince in Disguise

Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm

25844635All of her life, 16 year old Dylan Leigh has lived in the shadow of her reality TV star and beauty queen sister, Dusty, never quite measuring up to other’s expectations of her.  So when Dylan is dragged to Scotland as part of Dusty’s wedding to Ronan, a Scottish laird, there’s nothing she wants to do more than disappear. Unfortunately, the always-on and always-close cameras documenting the weeks leading up to the wedding and the hawkish producer Pamela won’t let that happen as she keeps finding ways to cast Dylan in an unflattering light. But when Dylan meets the charmingly awkward groomsmen Jaime, she starts to feel as if she’s really being seen for the first time. She just wishes it wasn’t being filmed for reality TV.

In this high school version of The Bachelor meets Princess Diaries, with a touch of Bridget Jones’ Diary, readers are drawn into a story that features witty banter, charming characters, and some genuinely laugh-out-loud funny moments. The highly romanticized fairy tale setting of a Christmas-time, winter wonderland Scotland, replete with horse drawn carriages and snowy kisses, is no less than what you would expect of a Hyperion (Disney) book. Strohm even manages to throw the reader off by including twists that aren’t twists alongside twists that are (got that?), and even more impressively, finds ways to allow secondary characters to develop beyond their one-dimensional first impressions. This is a mostly clean read that is sure to provide feel good vibes to whomever picks it up.

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

moxieAfter years of keeping her head down at school, the usually “dutiful” high school junior Vivian Carter can’t stay silent anymore about the rampant sexism occurring all around her: dress code violations are enforced on the girls while boys are able to wear lewd and tasteless t-shirts, teachers turn a blind eye to boys participating in the so-called game bump’n’grab, and funding for girls’ sports and education take a backseat to funding for the football team. Vivian doesn’t feel brave enough to speak out publicly – she doesn’t want to disappoint her family – but, drawing inspiration from her mom’s 90s feminist punk history, she decides to create an anonymous zine to give voice to her anger and frustration. What starts out as a small call to arms eventually turns into a movement, and Vivian discovers she had more moxie than she ever imagined.

This book touches on important topics and does so in a manner that is believable, inclusive, and praiseworthy. Besides including an unofficial soundtrack throughout the story and back matter that will lead readers to more resources on feminism, Mathieu peppers the entire book with moments that any aspiring feminist – either girl or boy – can appreciate. Not letting Seth get away with his subdued but ingrained misogyny was a true show of character for Vivian, no pun intended. Mathieu also includes LGBTQ characters and characters of color, but does so in ways that aren’t preachy or over the top. While it’s easy to wish she went more into the discrimination these characters face – she does touch upon it – in addition to the harassment they have to deal with, the reader knows this story isn’t about those issues per se, and so the characters are merely there, having the same awful experiences and fighting the same fight as everyone else. That is, in its own way, a refreshing change of pace.

And the winner is…

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

At first glance, these books seem vastly different in the stories they will tell when in fact, they have quite a bit in common. Though one looks saccharine and bright, and the other dark and edgy, both tell the stories of fatherless, physically commanding (tall), romantically stifled Southern girls who do their best to remain unseen until an outside event forces them to own their own worth. Both are given a shot at first kisses and first boyfriends while they try to navigate the choppy waters of learning to defy expectations (both their own and others’) in order to lead the life that’s meant for them.

Both stories lived up to the expected conventions of their respective genres (romance and realistic fiction) but in this hashtag-happy era of #WeNeedDiverseBooks, #MeToo, and #TimesUp, Moxie’s unapologetic feminism and inclusiveness of racial and sexual diversity puts it on top in the battle between tall Southern belles coming out of their shell.

Alea Perez has enthusiastically led the Youth Services department at the Westmont Public Library, located in the Chicago suburbs, since 2015. For 9 years, she has aimed to help children, teens, and their caregivers discover the joy and wonder of libraries in both IL and AZ and recently ended her term as Chair of YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens.


Back to Round Two, Bracket Seven

Onto Round Three, Bracket One

Tournament of Books, Round One: Moxie vs Piecing Me Together

My two books, Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu and Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson, are both very different, yet very similar. Moxie is about a white girl in a privileged town who is fed up with the politics of her high school, while Piecing Me Together is told by a poor African American teen desperate to escape her neighborhood and find a better life for herself and her family. However, both are realistic fiction and the basis of both stories is woman’s empowerment and feminism.

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

moxieLet’s talk about Moxie first. It isn’t often you come across a book with such a strong female character. Viv is fed up with her school and especially the principal. Fed up with the sexist dress codes, sexual harassment, and a football team that can do no wrong (it has the best of everything, including equipment and uniforms). One night instead of going to the football game (in which the entire town literally shuts down), she single-handedly creates the Moxie zine. Moxie unites all the girls in the school and encourages them to fight back. It takes off like rapid fire and soon the Moxie group is formed. This book is fun and entertaining while providing a great lesson in feminism. I feel this book will empower many teen readers. It is definitely a feel good book and an inspiration to all.

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

piecingmetogetherIn Piecing Me Together, Jade is one of the few African American students in a privileged high school which she attends on scholarship. She has few friends and desperately seeks the opportunity to travel abroad. She knows it is her only way out of her poor neighborhood. Instead she gets selected to be in a “woman-to-woman” group where she is paired with a mentor, Maxine. Although this seems to be a great opportunity, Maxine isn’t very emotionally stable herself. Jade’s determination and learning along with Maxine makes this a powerful book. They both teach each other a lot about the outside world. Watson’s focus is on teaching the reader that you create your own future and that empowerment and standing up for oneself is as important as the opportunities one may receive.

And the winner is…


Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

While I enjoyed both books very much and both are well written, Moxie shows a stronger character from the beginning and has more facets to the book, including humor. I loved how the actual zines she creates are included in the book. This enhances the entertainment and feel of empowerment throughout the book. Both books could be used in the classroom to teach students to speak up for themselves and others, but I feel Moxie would reach a wider audience and is more entertaining. Therefore, I think Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu should go on to the next round.

Moxie Girls Fight Back!!!

Heather Stewart is the Young Adult Librarian at Johnsburg Public Library. She enjoys getting crazy with her snarky teens, being brutally honest at times, but warm fuzzies are definitely her thing.  In her spare time, she enjoys board games, 80’s bands and spending time with her family, especially her 2 year old grandson, Elliott. However, she is an Ambivert and will never pass up on a solo lunch date with a good book.

Back to Round One, Bracket Fourteen

Onto Round One, Bracket Sixteen