Book Review: The Exact Opposite of Okay (Laura Steven)

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Publisher: Electric Monkey

Pages: 337

Release Date: March 8th 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

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…


This is one of those books which just clicked right away for me.

Izzy is an amazing narrator: she’s funny, she’s sensitive – in her own way – and she just reads like a teenage girl. I immediately connected with her and her life: the way she uses comedy to shield herself from things, the way family means more to her than throwing everything into a pipe dream. It’s odd to get that narrative in a book – usually, it’s all ‘follow your dreams’, no matter the consequences. I liked that Izzy had ambitions, but also at her core wanted to take care of her Grandma Betty, who’d worked really hard to look after Izzy after her parents died.

At a party one night, Izzy has sex with two boys, one who happens to be a local politician’s son, and someone takes pictures and suddenly everyone knows about it. While Izzy is called a slut and degraded at every opportunity, there’s little to no fall out for the boys involved. And, as Izzy says, that is the exact opposite of okay.

This is such a current topic, with talks about revenge porn, consent and feminism featuring prominently in the media at the moment. My favourite thing about it was that Izzy constantly affirms to herself that she did nothing wrong. Despite everyone’s opinions about it – and everyone is more than ready to share those opinions – there’s nothing wrong with being a girl and enjoying sex and having sex with multiple partners. If that’s what you want to do, as long as you’re safe about it, that should be fine. It’s fine when we talk about guys doing it. So why is it that when a girl does it, she’s branded a slut and told she should kill herself?

This book happily sits alongside some of my favourite feminist young adult books, including The Spinster Trilogy by Holly Bourne as well as books that deal with consent and treatment of girls, like Asking For It by Louise O’Neill. It’s the kind of book I want to give to my teenage sisters, to inspire them and empower them, because that’s how I felt reading this book. I would have loved this as a teenager.

It’s not all empowerment though – for a funny book, there are some seriously dark and sad moments in this. Even though Izzy tries to hold her head high and let things wash over her, it’s hard when you’re the target of so much hate. I wanted to cry a few times throughout the book because I just felt so bad for Izzy.

There’s also some interesting bits on the ‘friend zone’ and ‘nice guy’ syndrome. You know the type: the ones who have been nice to you, listened to you moan about other boys and been there for you, then suddenly decide that means they’re entitled to your love. It’s interesting the way the nice guy in the story is portrayed, as you can see in his head he is doing things right by Izzy, but from her point of view it’s insulting and creepy and just ruining their friendship. It’s not something I’ve seen in a book before and it’s a great way of pointing out to teens as something to look out for. Remember, you don’t owe guys anything, no matter how ‘nice’ they’ve been to you!

Overall this was just a really fantastic read. It can be uncomfortable and upsetting at points, but sometimes I think the best books are. It will really make you think, make you laugh, and hopefully you’ll come away from it feeling as inspired and empowered as I did.

Copy of an art exhibit

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