Title: The Exact Opposite of Okay
Author: Laura Steven
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Electric Monkey, Egmont UK in March 2018
Summary: From Amazon
Izzy O’Neill here! Impoverished orphan, aspiring comedian and Slut Extraordinaire, if the gossip sites are anything to go by . . .
Izzy never expected to be eighteen and internationally reviled. But when explicit photos involving her, a politician’s son and a garden bench are published online, the trolls set out to take her apart. Armed with best friend Ajita and a metric ton of nachos, she tries to laugh it off – but as the daily slut-shaming intensifies, she soon learns the way the world treats teenage girls is not okay. It’s the Exact Opposite of Okay.
I’m not always crazy about Young Adult fiction for some reason. Perhaps it’s just me, but I think it often comes across as cheesy or preachy. However neither of these things are true in The Exact Opposite of Okay, I absolutely loved it. I enjoyed reading every single page, I loved the main character and I thought it spoke about some really important and timely issues without it ever feeling like that was the sole purpose of the book.
I immediately liked and rooted for Izzy, the main character, because she is so witty, clever and unapologetic about who she is and the way she acts. I adored how passionate Izzy was about her dreams of writing screenplays for a living, and I was saddened right along with her by the many barriers there are for people who are not wealthy and connected. Izzy was so relatable and has faults just like we all do. I found her character was so well developed and skilfully portrayed. In fact, all of the characters were really interesting and realistic. I thought Izzy’s friendship with her best friend Ajita was really believable and full of funny dialogue filled with sarcasm and affection. Izzy’s grandmother, Betty, is her guardian due to both her parents dying years earlier and they have a really sweet relationship. There is so much trust between them and so much love which is nice to read considering the horrific invasion of Izzy;s privacy that takes place. The fact that she always has her grandmother’s support no matter what is partly what gives her her strength which is what makes her able to live her life the way she wants. I also thought it was so great that we as the reader really got to know Izzy and spent a significant portion of the book with her before the main events of the book took place. This meant that the reader is so much more connected to her story and felt for her as things became increasingly difficult in her life due to the actions and judgements of others.
The story is told through Izzy’s blog posts which I really enjoyed. Telling the story this way could have been gimmicky but it was constructed beautifully and felt totally natural. The humour in the novel is also great, Izzy is so funny and quick-witted which makes what could have been a pretty intense read due to the issues discussed actually just purely enjoyable and fun. Steven’s writing is fantastic and flows beautifully. I loved her style and ability to create such great characters. I will definitely be reading her next piece of work, whatever it may be.
The main issue of this book is the slut-shaming and judgement put on young women when they behave in a way that society deems unacceptable. Izzy’s privacy is totally invaded and her world changed when an anonymous blog is posted online basically outlining the many ways Izzy is supposedly a ‘whore’. There is also intimate photographs of Izzy circulated, which she can do very little about due to the fact she is over 18 and therefore technically an adult despite not even having left high school yet. The book does such a phenomenal job of portraying Izzy’s shock, violation and unfortunately her shame. At first Izzy rightly refuses to feel ashamed of herself because she knows that she has done nothing wrong and certainly nothing that millions of teenage boys do with little to no judgement every day. However as the novel progresses and Izzy is continuously judged and shamed by her peers, the press and even some of her teachers she does start to feel a deep shame and embarrassment for things that are in no way her fault. It is so depressing that even though Izzy is a strong, pretty confident young woman society can still force that shame upon her. This book is so filled with great insight about the way women are treated when they behave in a certain manner, not just by society but even by people they think of as friends. The book showed the devastating effect things like slut-shaming and revenge porn can have on even a strong person and whilst obviously nothing changes overnight, I really hope that pieces of work like this great book can start to enact some changes about the treatment of women everywhere.
I really cannot recommend this book enough. There was practically nothing I disliked about it and I think its such a fun entertaining read that still manages to say a great deal about something so important without ever beating you over the head with it.
I received this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review. So thank you to them and the publishers.