Author: Laura Steven
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4 stars)
Eighteen-year-old Izzy O’Neill knows exactly who she is—a loyal friend, an aspiring comedian, and a person who believes that milk shakes and Reese’s peanut butter cups are major food groups. But after she’s caught in a compromising position with the son of a politician, it seems like everyone around her is eager to give her a new label: slut.
Izzy is certain that the whole thing will blow over and she can get back to worrying about how she doesn’t reciprocate her best friend Danny’s feelings for her and wondering how she is ever going to find a way out of their small town. Only it doesn’t.
And while she’s used to laughing her way out of any situation, as she finds herself first the center of high school gossip and then in the middle of a national scandal, it’s hard even for her to find humor in the situation.
Izzy may be determined not to let anyone else define who she is, but that proves easier said than done when it seems like everyone has something to say about her.
What do I want to be now? Bold. Fierce. Honest. A fighter. A revolutionary. A bitch. Because the way the world treats teenage girls – as sluts, as objects, as bitches – is not okay. It’s the exact opposite of okay.
The Exact Opposite of Okay is an eye-opening novel with a powerful and timely message. Self confidence is never something that Izzy O’Neill has struggled with. As an aspiring comedian, she knows all too well that the trick to getting through high school (and life in general) is not taking herself too seriously. But Izzy soon finds herself in a very different kind of spotlight that’s no laughing matter, and she comes face to face with the blatant sexism that exists in modern society.
Heavily laced with the sarcasm, wit, and self-deprecating humor that are cornerstones of Izzy’s personality, the narrative unfolds in a blog post format. It’s a perfect vehicle for the candid intimacy with which Izzy shares the ups and downs of her tale. Izzy is a very messy but real character, and I found her confidence in her sexuality and unapologetic attitude about enjoying sex to be quite refreshing. Yet her core, Izzy is still a vulnerable teenage girl, and the moments where she lets herself break down are powerful reminders that the plot isn’t pure fiction. Slut-shaming and revenge porn are horrifying realities that high school girls face on a daily basis, and even though Izzy puts on an incredibly strong front she shouldn’t have to.
I applaud Laura Steven for tackling such a relevant issue in a way that manages to infuse levity without detracting from the very real, very infuriating dichotomy between how society treats sex when it comes to young men versus young women.
I did feel that the ending came across as somewhat rushed, but it’s hard to have any sort of true closure when what Izzy faced is the type of burden that leaves a mark for years to come. Still, I’m excited to see that her story continues in a sequel, A Girl Called Shameless, where I can’t wait to watch Izzy continue to take back her own narrative and challenge the sexist notions of the society we live in.
The world really does need more books like this one. Hats off to Laura Steven for capturing such a poignant topic in a manner that manages to be both hilarious and frustrating, but most of all real. I highly recommend giving The Exact Opposite of Okay a shot!
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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, was published by Egmont in March 2018. The sequel, A Girl Called Shameless, will follow in 2019.
As well as mentoring aspiring authors through schemes like Pitch Wars, Laura works for Mslexia, a non-profit organisation supporting women writers. She graduated with Distinction from her MA in Creative Writing in 2017, and her TV pilot Clickbait – a mockumentary about journalists at a viral news agency – was a finalist in British Comedy’s 2016 Sitcom Mission.
Laura is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary and Media Inc.
Check out the full tour schedule for The Exact Opposite of Okay here.
Warm thanks to HarperTeen and the Fantastic Flying Book Club for providing me with a finished copy in exchange for an honest review.