The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven – REVIEW
Izzy O’Neill is an aspiring comic, an impoverished orphan, and a Slut Extraordinaire. Or at least, that’s what the malicious website flying round the school says. Izzy can try all she wants to laugh it off – after all, her sex life, her terms – but when pictures emerge of her doing the dirty with a politician’s son, her life suddenly becomes the centre of a national scandal.
Izzy’s never been ashamed of herself before, and she’s not going to start now. But keeping her head up will take everything she has …
“While I don’t like to be directly involved in conflict itself, I must know absolutely every detail about other people’s drama or else I will spontaneously combust.”
I first became aware of this book after seeing the hype surrounding it at YALC 2017 ( I was one of those who couldn’t make it so punished themselves by constantly stalking everyone on Twitter whilst silently crying). Once it became available on NetGalley I immediately requested it and soon after joined the Bitches Bite Back street team to promote the book. I’m already calling this as one of my favourite books of 2018 – I absolutely loved everything about it. Formatted as a series of blog entries being compiled into a book by the main character Izzy O’Neill after a sex scandal, it’s a fierce, no-holds-barred exploration of revenge porn, victim-blaming, and slut-shaming. Whilst these may seem like heavy topics, the book is absolutely hilarious from start to finish, effortlessly dismantling the patriarchy with its bold feminism.
“Because you know my motto: do no harm, but take no shit.”
The incredible main character of Izzy remained in my head long after finishing. Izzy might be a mess at times (who isn’t at 18?) but she has an inner confidence and a strong belief in her right to live her truth anyway she pleases. After naked photos of her are released, Izzy is adamant that she won’t be shamed for behaving like every other 18-year-old male is allowed and even encouraged to. The gender inequality that drives slut-shaming, and its use as a method of controlling women, is repeatedly questioned by Izzy and her best friend Ajita. Ajita is absolutely fierce and such a great friend, and I loved her dry humour. Danny, on the other hand, is a typical example of an entitled male trying to preserve his ‘Nice Guy’ image. His behaviour was so frustrating at times and his lack of insight was frighteningly realistic.
“As an aside, I actually really admire people who slut-shame on the internet. Usually when someone has a low IQ they try to hide it, but these guys just throw it right out there in the public domain.”
With the rise in public awareness of revenge porn and the myriad difficulties high-school girls have to navigate in contemporary society, The Exact Opposite of Okay is a timely and much-needed book. It should be mandatory in every school library as it could be exactly what a young person needs to read. It’s feminist main characters constantly question the status quo and encourage the reader to do the same and you finish the book wanting to actively change society. It’s a huge bonus that the author is a Northerner too and will be having the launch party at Waterstones Newcastle this March as I can’t wait to get a signed copy of this very special book.
|About the Author
Laura Steven is an author, journalist and screenwriter from the northernmost town in England. The Exact Opposite of Okay, her YA debut, will be published by Egmont in March 2018.
As well as mentoring aspiring authors through schemes like Pitch Wars, Laura works for Mslexia, a non-profit organisation supporting women writers. She’s currently studying for her MA in Creative Writing, and her TV pilot Clickbait – a mockumentary about journalists at a viral news agency – was a finalist in British Comedy’s 2016 Sitcom Mission.