You know when you read a book and can recognise it’s going to be a big deal to its intended audience? Yep. That.
Laura Steven‘s debut novel The Exact Opposite of Okay is a furiously frank, funny and feminist novel following teenager Izzy O’Neill, whose life is changed dramatically when someone posts explicit photos of her having sex online. Desperately trying to keep things together, Izzy also has to cope with her over-worked grandmother, her best friend Danny’s strange new behaviour, her other best friend’s new mate, her potential love-life and the fallout from being caught with a politician’s son.
The Exact Opposite of Okay focusses in on the cruelty of revenge porn, a subject very much in the limelight at the moment as YouTuber Chrissy Chambers recently won her lengthy legal battle against her former boyfriend. I found it very refreshing that Steven’s characters repeatedly affirm that there is nothing wrong with sending a cheeky consensual nude; the issues arise when people betray that trust.
This book happily sits alongside the wave of feminist young adult contemporary novels we’ve been blessed with in the last few years — the Spinster Trilogy by Holly Bourne, Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu, and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart all immediately spring to mind. Izzy herself, with all her swagger, wit and unwillingness to be shamed for enjoying sex, conjures Hannah from Non Pratt’s Trouble and Emma from Editing Emma by Chloe Seager, both voices I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading of recent.
More than that — and light spoilers ahead friends — Steven dives deep in to the murky realm of the Nice Guys and the Friend Zone, monikers for men and a fictional space they inhabit where women refuse to have sex with them because they’re “too nice”. As a teen (and even during adulthood!), I had a few friends hit me with this card. It was extremely refreshing to see Izzy deal with this slyly-sinister behaviour openly, with Steven clearly orienting it as something to watch out for and avoid. I know that it’s going to help a lot of young people identify problematic relationships in their midst.
The Exact Opposite of Okay is not just an enjoyable read, but I firmly believe it is a book that will influence, console and help a whole generation of teenagers. I very much look forward to what comes next from Laura Steven, another fantastic 2018 debut author.
What to read next:
Thank you kindly to Electric Monkey for doing a proof giveaway at YALC where absolute angel Jim from Ya Yeah Yeah won a copy just for me.