Title: The Exact Opposite of Okay
Author: Laura Steven
Publisher: Electric Monkey
UK Release Date: 8th March 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Feminism
Source: Publisher’s YALC stand
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 . . .
Back in the summer, when I attended YALC, one of the proofs I was most excited to have picked up from the publishers’ stands around the hall was The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven. Within YA, contemporaries are definitely my preferences, and I heard that there was some feminism in there as well, so I was completely sold on it! It did take me till January to finally read it, but I was not disappointed – it was worth the wait. (Also, can we take a moment briefly to appreciate that gorgeous cover?!)
I think my favourite thing about this book was probably the fact that it was feminist, but in a subtle way (I hope that makes sense). I’ve read YA books with feminism as a core concept before, and I still enjoyed them, but I found that sometimes they could come across as preachy, or just be an information dump, which could then fail to persuade readers who are newer to feminist concepts. The wonderful thing about The Exact Opposite of Okay was that it weaved feminism in to the plot and discussed them throughout. The two main ideas covered were ‘friend-zoning’ (don’t want to say more on this for fear of spoilers), and then slut shaming, as Izzy is vilified for having explicit photos of her leaked, while the boy is barely targeted. These are such important ideas to explore, and I would definitely recommend this book on its presentation of these alone.
I also loved the female friendship and family relationship in this book. While there were rocky times for Ajita and Izzy (especially when Izzy said something she definitely should not have said – and although Izzy realised a little too late, she did see where she had gone wrong and apologise), they pulled through in the end. When so much else was going wrong in Izzy’s life, I loved that for most the book, she had her strong friendship with Ajita there for her. I also adored Izzy’s grandmother, Betty, who was clearly stressed a lot of the time, but always did her best for Izzy. She seemed so cool, and such a trooper, and I loved her.
I also really loved Izzy’s teacher, Mrs Crannon. I know this probably seems like a kind of random thing to mention, but I absolutely loved to see the portrayal of a teacher who was just so encouraging and supportive towards Izzy’s dreams, and truly believed in her. Izzy has a difficult financial situation at home, and Mrs Crannon pays for Izzy to enter a screenplay competition, which I thought was so touching. Especially when in comparison with how other teachers reacted to what happened (some of them made me so angry!), she really stood out in the book as a wonderful person in Izzy’s life.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Exact Opposite of Okay. The book/Izzy had quite a specific sense of humour, but once I settled in to the book, I adapted to the jokes and one-liners, and by the end I thought they were absolutely hilarious! I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who loves funny contemporaries with (mainly) lovable characters (although there are some bad eggs in there), which deal superbly with feminist issues that are pertinent to modern life.