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First off, thank you to Melanie Fraser of Fraser’s Fun House for allowing me to be a part of this Blog Tour! I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Jax, a magazine-cover model, has had half her face destroyed in a bomb blast. Drowning in whiskey and self-loathing, she must rebuild her life now that her beauty is gone. Part love letter to New York, part commentary on social justice issues, Moxie is a timely and raw portrayal of the sometimes self-destructive search for identity and redemption.
It’s so refreshing to read books where the main character isn’t much of a role model, and Moxie by Alex Poppe certainly fits into this category. Jax is a blunt and brutal character whose actions are eyebrow-raising at times and whose views towards life are cynical and often misguided. She’s experienced a trauma that she hasn’t yet risen from, and Moxie is her journey as she comes to terms with her new life.
There are a lot of interesting things to say about Poppe’s writing, which is modern and unusual in a very good way. Moxie is written in the first person, including much commentary from Jax, and with a peculiar style that sees a lack of first-person pronouns (similar to how Geralt talks in The Witcher, if anyone has played the game). I found this quite odd at first, but once I’d got used to it I enjoyed a more original writing style and it actually really suited Jax as a character, who is a woman of few words at times and likes to get across her point without the frills. However, this forthright writing style is combined with the most beautiful of poetic description, including phrases such as “A kite writing on the blue above with its red tail becomes my North Star”. Poppe has a way with words that I wish I did; she can take a simple moment and describe it in a way that brings it to life both visually and emotionally.
Generally the book is very emotionally charged, and switches between these emotions very quickly – within a single page we can go from raw sexual desire to acute self-loathing, and then suddenly we’re back to Jax’s reserved and candid personality. It’s a real rollercoaster of a read and I enjoyed being able to explore so many facets of the Jax’s mind, among other characters. Generally these minor characters were developed and I liked how they were used to progress the storyline, though I did find myself getting confused by several due to how quickly they would flit in and out of existence. I particularly liked the exploration of characters from Jax’s past… Poppe is excellent at the “show not tell” rule when it comes to backstory, using suggestive scenes to piece the puzzle together for the reader.
Despite her abrupt nature and overly-expletive dialogue Jax is a relatable and interesting character who deals with many things during the course of the book, such as grief of the self, discrimination, and loss of her sexual experiences. The reactions to her from other characters are intriguing and made me really feel for Jax – simple walking past someone could induce a torrent of hurtful words that she’s expected to take on the chin. Being British (read: highly reserved and awkward when encountering members of the public) I couldn’t believe that some of these things could be said by strangers (or anyone), but it really put it into perspective to me just what disabled and disfigured people must experience on a regular basis.
Though shocking and in-your-face at times, Moxie is an enjoyable read that makes an important commentary on our society and the value of beauty above other things. It showed to me an injustice that sadly is all too prevalent, and highlighted how important the sense of self really is to an individual. Moxie is a beautifully written story of self-realisation and the perspective Poppe brings through her writing is something we all need to understand and experience.
If you’d like to purchase Moxie then you can do so here:
Alex Poppe is the author of the debut novel Moxie (2019) and the story
collection Girl, World (2017). Girl, World was named a 35 Over 35 Debut Book Award winner, First Horizon Award finalist, Montaigne Medal finalist, and was short-
listed for the Eric Hoffer Grand Prize. It was also awarded an Honorable Mention in General Fiction from the Eric Hoffer Awards. Her short fiction has been a
finalist for Glimmer Train’s Family Matters contest, a nominee for the Pushcart
Prize, and commended for the Baker Prize. Her non-fiction was named a Best of
the Net nominee (2016), a finalist for Hot Metal Bridge’s Social Justice Writing
contest, and has appeared in Bust and Bella Caledonia. She is an academic writing
lecturer at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani and is working on her third
book of fiction with support from Can Serrat International Art Residency and
Asociacíon Cultural LINEA DE COSTA DUPLO Artist in Residency programs.