The Exact Opposite of Okay
Author: Laura Steven
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Publication Date: March 8th 2018
Format: Paperback (352 pages)
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…
My Rating: ★★★★★
The title says it all really, this book is The Exact Opposite of Okay but in the best, most brilliant way possible. This book is really rather brilliant and one you are sure to see popping up on my blog quite regularly as a recommendation. It is hard to believe that Laura Steven is a debut novelist when the quality of her work is SO bold and brilliant. (I’ve used brilliant a lot, but you’ll get used to it.)
This book is going to create some serious waves out there in the book community because it is so fresh and it’s going to knock down so many societal barriers and cause a lot of conversation along the way. Izzy’s story is one of betrayal, unfortunately a betrayal that so many young people face: her nude picture is leaked online. Not only does that happen but before this a website is made defaming her name and sexual activities at a recent party. This book tells a very powerful story which talks about slut-shaming, victim blaming, revenge porn, ‘the nice guy’ and so much more. I loved how the feminist messages were laced throughout the book and for readers who do not know much about feminism or maybe are unsure what it means, this book will give some really good pointers which may feel relatable to some young girls in society.
Not only is this book an important one but oh my gosh is it funny. In fact it might even be one of the funniest books I’ve EVER read. I was cackling hysterically throughout this book (which I know doesn’t seem likely if you read the above paragraph) but Izzy’s voice is so fresh and I could immediately connect to her snarky sense of humour. I loved the format of the book which is a series of blog posts that Izzy edits to show how her situation came about (inserting lots of witty comments in brackets along the way). Because this book is told using a first person narrative I could so easily find parts of myself in Izzy and I think a lot of people reading this book will find more than one way to relate to her.
Laura Steven has written some absolutely incredible characters and relationships in this book. More about Izzy in a bit, but I just ADORED her friendship with Ajita (who is EVERY bit as snarky as Izzy, if not more). Their brutal humour with each other is something I could so relate to when thinking of the relationship I have with my own best friend. I personally really loved Ajita’s character development throughout the story too and how her culture affects her decisions. My other favourite relationship in this book was Izzy and Betty, her grandma. I can’t imagine ever having a relationship that open with my own nan but I can also see why I wouldn’t because I’ve not been brought up by her. There are some extremely touching moments between them in the book and it was these two lovelies that reduced me to a mass of tears towards the end.
As a teacher, can I also give a huge THANK YOU yell to Laura Steven for showing such a supportive and positive relationship between Izzy and her drama teacher Mrs Crannon. I could relate to this in two ways: as a pupil who sought comfort from some special teachers of my own and also, luckily, as a teacher who is lucky to have pupils who confide in me the way Izzy does to Mrs Crannon. It just really warmed my heart.
Izzy O’Neill is a strong-willed, bold and a fierce young lady to say the very least and I absolutely ADORED her for it. Izzy is the voice that I think UKYA has been SCREAMING out for and I just can’t get enough. I loved how snarky, witty and sarcastic she is, how loyal and loving she is but my favourite thing about Izzy? Yes she’s a tough cookie but she has the softest, gooiest interior and I loved that as the story developed we got to see her become more and more peeled back. I think that Izzy as a character is an often much needed reminder that even those around us we think are ‘strong’ may be feeling very different on the inside. (Izzy probably wouldn’t like me saying this but she is a sweetie.) I am a sucker for flawed and vulnerable characters and even more so when they conceal themselves behind a tougher exterior so Izzy has immediately become a favourite.
There was literally nothing I didn’t like about this book. I mean, even Izzy’s dog is called Dumbledore which sets the reader up for some hilarious lines throughout the book. I wasn’t expecting the book to have a US setting when I first started reading but it didn’t make any difference to my reading experience at all. I would just warn that there is a lot of swearing in the book, which I personally loved, but I know that may not be for everyone.
The Exact Opposite of Okay is a game changer for the UKYA community. It is charging head on at society and tackling some incredibly important issues in a way that is relatable. Izzy O’Neill is a darling and I can’t wait to read more from her next (that’s right readers, there’s going to be a sequel!)
Thanks to Egmont/Electric Monkey for sending me a copy in exchange of a fair and honest review.
Have you read The Exact Opposite of Okay? Is it on your TBR?
What are your favourite YA feminist reads?