Book review: The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven

The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: March 8, 2018
Source: purchased

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…

When in doubt, always do the least amount of work possible, in order to preserve energy for important things like laughing and sex. Don’t look at me like that. This is a book about a sex scandal: did you really expect me to be a nun and/or the Virgin Mary?

I had seen this book floating around the book blogoverse for a bit before I decided that I wanted to read it. What tipped me over the edge was a tweet from the author about, of all things, a negative review. You see, in this review, the book was described as “Recreational outrage for misandrist feminists. Absolution & promotion of slutty behaviour.” I usually don’t like it when authors address negative reviews, but Laura’s response convinced me to pick up this book.

Anyway, this book was really great. It’s a YA contemporary focusing not on romance, but on the perception of women in the media and the way that women are vilified for the same thing that men are celebrated for. Because what does Izzy do to cause all of this commotion? She has sex with a senator’s son. God forbid. Do you think the boy in question has to deal with any of the fallout? Of course not. He’s an absolute angel that’s simply been dragged down by a lying, publicity-hungry teenager.

The thing here is that none of this is Izzy’s fault. She’s 18. She has consensual sex with appropriately-aged classmates. She doesn’t sell her story to the press. Her sex life should be her own business, but all of a sudden, it’s plastered across the internet and sleazy tabloids. Her classmates turn against her. Male teachers leer at her in the hallways. Her life is forever changed.

One of the things I most appreciated about this book was that the author never once blamed Izzy for her predicament. Are there a lot of things that Izzy’s done wrong in her life? Yes. Are there things she probably should’ve fully thought through before doing them? Of course. Is the reaction to her actions at all warranted? Nope. The mere fact that Izzy is sexually active should not be national news.

Hidden among the pages of the sex scandal are wonderful examples of character development and important lessons on friendship and the friend zone. Izzy is forced to grow up quite a bit over the course of the book and she makes some discoveries about why she acts the way she does. (Not necessarily relating to the sex scandal, just in general.) She also makes some regrettable decisions regarding her best friend and has to deal with that inevitable explosion of consequences as well. I’m trying so hard to avoid spoilers in this review, so I just want to mention that I was a little worried about how things would work out with Izzy’s other best friend, Danny, but I’m really satisfied with what happened.

The one thing keeping me from rating this book a full five stars was the setting. This is a book by a British author that takes place in the Bible Belt of the USA. This is totally fine and I can definitely see this kind of thing happening in that area. The problem I had was that I was constantly pulled out of the story by all the British terminology, like Izzy sitting in a toilet cubicle (bathroom stall) or being stopped by a prefect in the hallway (hall monitor, maybe).

Overall, I really loved this book. It’s about a pretty heavy topic and it has some pretty heavy scenes, but the humor comes through so much that it’s never overwhelming. I feel like Laura Steven is probably hilarious in real life and I’ve already decided that I want to be her friend. And, side note, I’ve never before seen a book reference Cute Is What We Aim For, so bonus points for that flashback to my high school years.

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