Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Makeover! The Reinvention of Moxie Roosevelt by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

My personality log was beginning to overwhelm me.

In the almost four weeks since I'd started keeping it, there was way too much information piling up. I had actually enjoyed keeping the lists in the beginning, but now just reading over them made me feel queasy. I'd said so many things to so many different people. I knew that I was only doing a little harmless personality window-shopping, but on paper my experiment looked...not so good. Kind of like the journal entries of a pathological liar.


It's the age when almost everyone decides that their personality closet needs a good cleaning out and sprucing up. Moxie Roosevelt Kipper is no exception. Stuck with an inexplicable name (who else is named after an obscure 1920s soft drink, two (2!) dead presidents, and a pickled fish?), Moxie feels she has failed to live up to her improbable name, flying under the radar, hiding out with the music nerds in her tiny hometown of Pine Point, the kind of girl that no one seems to remember meeting.

But now Moxie is off, on a piano scholarship no less, to the prestigious Eaton Academy for Girls, and it's her chance to reinvent herself. But what kind of Moxie is she going to be? Certainly not that faceless music nerd, toiling over Bach's Goldbert Variations for fun. Mysterious Earth Goddess? Assertive Revolutionary Activist? Detached, Unique, Coolly Knowing Individual? Hale and Hearty Sports Enthusiast?

Moxie hastily scribbles her list of possible personalities on the way to Eaton Academy, giving herself little time to research her cover identities, and none of the personalities seems to match that of her new roommate, Spinky Spangler--she of the crewcut green hair, piercings, dog collar and Chinese calligraphy tattoos. Somehow Moxie successfully fakes her way through a trial run of her DUCKI (Detached, Unique, Coolly Knowing Individual) and hits it off with Spinky instantly. Buoyed by her success and inspired by her seeming intuitive sense of her new classmates' passions, she goes on to pretend to be a red-hot Yankees fan (HHSE) with Guadalupe, and nature-loving save-the-sea-cow environmentalist (ARA) with Reagan, and a spiritual Wiccan (MEG) with her hallmate, the serene Buddhist Haven. In the first week Moxie goes on to spin off some real tall tales--telling her student counselor she has had her sixth toes and fingers removed surgically, and telling her Educational Enrichment teacher Mrs. Hay that she can't perform stand up comedy in the talent show because she is Amish.

But keeping up the right front with each person becomes almost too much for Moxie. And Moxie is stymied with the strangely hostile Kate Southington, who seems to hate every one of her potential personas and seems to believe that Moxie knows some deep, dark secret that she plans to use to turn the whole class against her. Then, just as the pressure from math class, her upcoming piano performance of Goldberg Variation No. 28 and a standup comedy routine in the fall talent show (which Mrs. Hay insists is crucial to pass her Educational Enrichment class) becomes almost too much for her, Moxie discovers that her notebook journaling her fictitious personas with each of her new friends is missing, She suspects that the spiteful Kate has snitched it and plans to reveal her fakery to all her new friends. Moxie is sure that she will soon be fleeing back to Pine Point with all of her potential personalities in pieces.

Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, whose earlier Spin The Bottle displayed her skill in portraying girl characters on the cusp of teendom, has in her newest, The Reinvention of Moxie Roosevelt (Dial Books, 2010) a character every 'tweener girl will recognize. With the insight of Mrs. (Hobbit) Hay, the confidence in her of her piano master, Mr. Tate, and the solid acceptance of her ever-empathetic roommate Spinky, Moxie, with her search to find her own moxie in this world, is a lovable, funny, and completely sympathetic character who at last comes to find within herself the person she is meant to be.

The Reinvention of Moxie Roosevelt was over. And the real Moxie Roosevelt had finally stood up.

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