The Exact Opposite of Okay – Laura Steven
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 18 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 that the way the world treats teenage girls is not okay.
It’s The Exact Opposite of Okay.
Well, there is nothing like tackling an issue head on, and Laura Steven does just that. It’s a very powerful book, and given the media spotlight on how young women and girls are abused and bullied on the internet, it is extremely apropos. What Laura does, is take the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions; laughing and crying, happy and despairing. How do you deal with the fact that one day you are with your friends, happy and loving life, the next the internet is awash with very explicit photographs of you?
The social judgement, revenge porn, slut-shaming, victim blaming, male entitlement and more is terrifying. Yet no matter how low and despairing it gets, you come away feeling emboldened and encouraged. If you do not know much about feminism or maybe are unsure what it means, this book will give some the reader some illumination.
On a less serious note, I spent a lot of time laughing; this book is riddled with humour! The characters are well drawn, their voices are fresh and immediate, and you cannot help but become invested in them. Izzy comes across as a tough, strong girl, but in fact she is as vulnerable as everyone else, which we discover as the story progresses. As this book is aimed at an audience of teenage girls and young women, pulling away the layers of Izzy ‘front’ is a really great device to show that underneath, there is another Izzy who is just like the rest of us. Her friend Ajita provides the best friend support, and their relationship feels real and relatable. Anita’s development as a character is also excellent, but most of all I liked how her background, ethnicity, culture (call it what you will) impacts on her decision-making. Equally, well drawn are two good women; Betty, Izzy’s Grandmother, and Mrs Crannon, Izzy’s teacher, who provided her with essential love and support.
It is astounding to think that this is a debut novel. If Laura Steven keeps this standard in her next novels, she is going to be a writing force to be reckoned with.