“you think it’s justified because you believe you have a right to have sex with me, a right to my love, but just… stop. We’re done. Our friendship is done. Which is totally fine, because it turns out it was never enough for you anyway.” – The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven
With help from her wit and loyal drama teacher, Izzy O’Neil is soon step out of education and into the real world, aiming for a future in comedy. But when her nudes are leaked across the internet, people care less about her jokes and more about her social life. As the world judges and belittles her life choices she soon learns that 2018 is not nearly as progressive as society would have Izzy believe.
I had really high hopes for this novel. My friend of similar reading taste adored it to no end, it was all over Twitter and I had recommendations left, right and centre to read it. But when push came to shove I was faced with cringy humour, a long drawn out plot and a main character I struggled to relate to. But I still loved it.
Probably this novels biggest issue was pacing. It was so slow. A third of the book is just narrating Izzy’s life- we follow her through several mundane days at school before anything actually happens. I got to hear about her friends, her childhood, her struggling to find a job- all great for world building, but does it have to take up so many pages? I wasn’t sure if it was filler, since the novel is quite short, or if the author was trying to make Izzy as relatable as possible, but I didn’t feel the build up needed to be so long.
The second snag of disappointment was the book’s humour. I did find the novel humorous, but I wouldn’t say it was subtle. The main character was an aspiring comedian and, as per, thought she was much funnier than she actual was, which made the novel awkward to read. I like jokes in books, I just find it a bit weird when the characters find themselves funnier than I do. Everyone was deeming Izzy the next Charlie Chaplin, full of confidence and charming any boy she met and I just wasn’t buying it. I didn’t think Izzy was a realistic heroine and realism would have really embellished the point this novel is trying to make.
And, finally, there’s the line that annoyed me to no end. About seven pages in there’s the line shown below and, while everyone is praising this novel for it’s humour, I’m gritting my teeth and trying to pretend this novel is still somewhat progressive:
As a feminist I feel immediately guilty because everyone is trying to encourage girls into STEM subjects now, but to be honest I’m not dedicated enough to the Vagenda to force myself to become a computer programmer.
As a female computer programmer, and no it’s not because I’m ‘dedicated to the vagenda’, I’m just a little offended that ‘cool’ characters in media are still belittling women’s interest in STEM. Izzy goes on to make a few, not very funny quips about mathematics and the whole thing just made me annoyed. Can we stop calling girls weird for liking maths? Because that is not a good message for young women reading this novel! Could Izzy have not just said she wasn’t interest in the subject, like I do when I’m talking about history or English?
Ok, I’m now feeling quite bad for slating a not all bad novel. It might not have been my type of writing and I did have a few qualms with it’s pace but the message this book makes is so important. Izzy’s whole situation was not unfamiliar to me, and I don’t mean the leaked nudes. Some guys generally do feel entitled to a woman’s affections. I don’t want to go too much into it since I’m keeping this review spoiler free, but this novel does make a really good point. Hence the quote at the top of this review. I’ve experienced this problem before and have, since reading this novel, spoken to friends who have too- I soon realised the situation is not uncommon. It’s an important point and something every young woman should be wary of.
The second highlight of this novel was the absolute loyalty Ajita’s showed Izzy. They had a classic, 2018, ‘banterous’ friendship: where taking the mick is showing love but Ajita definitely showed that she was sticking by Izzy to the end.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel. It was a little over hyped for me, but, despite it’s shortcomings, I would recommend it to any young woman. It’s humorous and I did think the point it made was important even if it was a little slow at making it. If you’re reading the first half and finding your attention waning I would really suggest sticking it out. Honestly, the point the book makes was worth it for me.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ Humorous with a likable, if not unrealistic protagonist. It makes an important point but it a little slow at making it.
The Mortal Instruments and Percy Jackson are both series I really enjoyed for their humour, if you’re looking for funny books. The Hate U Give is on a similar vein of having a message but still being a very entertaining YA novel. There are similar feminist books out there, but I haven’t read enough of them to personally recommend!
Have you read The Exact Opposite of Okay? What did you think of the protagonist, Izzy? Have you read any similar, feminist books?