Review - The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven
The Exact Opposite of Okay by 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 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.
Okay, true confession time. Bear with me, I will get to this amazing book in a minute and this is super relevant.
I had a crush on a close friend of mine for the longest time. I knew that she wasn't interested in any romantic relationships but that didn't put me off. We never really talked about it and I don't think I ever harassed her about it, (I hope I didn't!) I just convinced myself that if I was a nice guy, that if I hung around long enough and showed her how supportive and lovely I could be, then maybe one day...
I'm over that now, and I am a lot happier for it. It wasn't easy. Those emotions can all too easily turn to resentment and bitterness, and then veer back and forth destructively. Now I'm in a place where I can tell her that I love her, and mean it platonically. Not 'just' as friends, because having friends you love is awesome and not something you settle for, but without any other wants or expectations.
Reading The Exact Opposite of Okay was not easy. It's horribly uncomfortable to see yourself reflected in one of the characters of a novel in a negative way. But that's one of the reasons why I think this book is so important and so powerful. Yes, we need to teach our young girls about feminism, tell them "This is okay for you to do." and "This is not okay for people to do to you." But we also need to teach our boys and men. "This is not okay. This is harmful, this is destructive." For me personally, a big part of that was the brutally effective way Laura Steven rips into the 'Nice guy myth' and the 'Friendzone." She takes it apart, examines it and shows just how wrong it is as a mode of behaviour or system of belief. I think I'm lucky, in a way, that while I was reading it I was reflecting on past behaviours more than anything else. It would have been a lot more painful to read a year ago, but I think it may have helped me even more back then.
There is so much packed into this book, yet it is done with such style that it never feels forced or over the top. The events that rock Izzy O'Neill's world feel like they flow organically, the slut shaming, the revenge porn and their consequences all have a common origin rather than Izzy being hit from all sides at once by separate disasters that can make some narratives feel forced.
Izzy starts off so delightfully confident in herself and very uninhibited. The shaming comes from the reactions of the people around her, and the loss of control, with the fact that she loses the right to choose who sees her body, with the hypocritical judgement that sees the men applauded and the women denounced for the same behaviour. It's a very emotional journey, and one that moved me deeply. Yet Izzy's story is also told with a lot of humour. She's an incredibly endearing heroine, always cracking jokes no matter how dark things get. I often found I was laughing through the tears. The humour really helps lighten the tone, and although this is a novel with a very serious message, it somehow avoids being a heavy read.
This is Laura's debut novel, and it's a brilliant start It's published on 8th March 2018 by Egmont and there's a sequel due in 2019. Laura is also running a preorder offer, with details here, but you'll have to act quickly!
I'm giving The Exact Opposite of Okay a full five moons, without hesitation.
I was given an ebook copy of The Exact Opposite of Okay by Netgalley in return for an honest review.