I truly believe that 2018 is going to predominantly be the year of diverse reads and feminism within the YA genre. Just take upcoming UK author Laura Steven’s debut for example. It deals with sexism, revenge porn, sexuality, and above all things, what it means to be a woman in the 21st century.
The Exact Opposite Of Okay follows the life of seventeen year old Izzy O’Neill. A creative, self-deprecating, and sexually experienced teenager dealing with the aftermath of a sex scandal involving a politician’s son.
Before I get to why I LOVED this book, I’m going to get out the small issues I had with it first so I can gush freely about the positives!
- I felt that whilst the men in this book were jerks, that isn’t entirely accurate of everyday life. Yes, men can be exactly like those portrayed during the pages of this novel but there are some pretty nice ones out there too. Throughout the course of this book, I’m pretty sure that there was ONE guy that wasn’t a complete douche. I understand that this was mainly a book about women and empowerment but we don’t need to hate on men to do that! I’m certain this is not what Laura Steven was intending to do, but at times, it really felt like it was laying into men just a bit too much.
- Izzy’s humour was non stop to a ridiculous extent. Every other line felt like another attempt at creating a funny quote, and whilst some of it was pretty funny, it was just a bombardment of jokes at the expense of ridiculing herself and her feelings. I know this actually gets cleared up towards the end of the novel, and fades out as Izzy’s character grows, so it didn’t end up diminishing the quality of The Exact Opposite Of Everything as much as I was originally worried it might, but it still left a slight negative blemish on an otherwise excellent book.
Having said all of that, I still think this is a very important YA novel. It’s one of the first books I’ve read that doesn’t skirt around the fact that the female protagonist has sex. It never even occurred to me before reading TEOOO (shortened title) that it’s very rare that sex is written about so freely and un-romantically in young adult literature. Seventeen year old girls do indeed go to parties and sleep with someone they don’t really know. It happens. And it was nice to read about in a realistic way.
Unfortunately for Izzy, just as in the real world, she gets slut shamed. In the form of a website named Izzy O’Neill: World Class Whore. Now this could be seen to some as a view on the perils of modern day technology but no, this is a bigger problem altogether that I, and many girls face on a day to day basis. I once got hacked on Facebook before hacking was even a thing, and the next day at school I was called all sorts of awful names. I was distraught. Just like Izzy, you really do start to believe some of the things people say and the character building as she goes through it all is exceptionally well written.
I wasn’t a fan of the male characters but I’m pretty sure that was the whole point. It felt as if you were in Izzy’s shoes and you didn’t quite know who you could trust. As I said before however, it was done to the extreme and I think this may potentially alienate male readers which is a great shame because it’s an important read for them too.
As for the women, the stars of this book have to be Betty and Ajita who were female empowerment perfection. Her grandmother is forward thinking, modern and honest, and Ajita is a lovely, sweet being who must be protected at all costs. If you aren’t enticed to read this just by the discussion that slut shaming raises, then please read it for a great look at female friendship and guardianship.
This is going to be one of those novels that I will think about for the foreseeable future. It’s an important book. It raises a lot of questions, and answers some old ones too. If you pick up one contemporary this year, make sure it’s this one.
A big thank you to Netgalley, Egmont Publishing and Laura Steven for providing me with an ARC.