Eighteen-year-old Izzy O’Neill knows exactly who she is—a loyal friend, an aspiring comedian, and a person who believes that milk shakes and Reese’s peanut butter cups are major food groups. But after she’s caught in a compromising position with the son of a politician, it seems like everyone around her is eager to give her a new label: slut. Izzy is certain that the whole thing will blow over and she can get back to worrying about how she doesn’t reciprocate her best friend Danny’s feelings for her and wondering how she is ever going to find a way out of their small town. Only it doesn’t. And while she’s used to laughing her way out of any situation, as she finds herself first the center of high school gossip and then in the middle of a national scandal, it's hard even for her to find humor in the situation. Izzy may be determined not to let anyone else define who she is, but that proves easier said than done when it seems like everyone has something to say about her.
The Exact Opposite of OkayFeatured
engaging story confronting sexism through slut-shaming and "Nice Guys"
THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF OKAY is a book that tackles sexism and slut-shaming. Written as a series of journal entries, we follow Izzy O’Neill before, during, and after the events that change her life forever. Izzy wants to be a comedian, which is not easy when you are female and/or when you are poor- and Izzy is both. She lives with her grandmother, Betty, since her parents died in a car accident when she was young. Betty works at a diner for minimal wages that are barely enough to cover the bills. Izzy does not want to get in debt, and so college is off the table.
When her teacher brings up the opportunity for her to enter a screenwriting contest that could advance her future career, Izzy is excited to enter. Around the same time, she is at a party and hooks up with a couple guys. It shouldn’t be a big deal, but then someone creates a horrible website and posts a photo of her having sex with a politician’s son and starting a whole pile-on of slut-shaming. As the site escalates and breaks into the news, Izzy is subjected to public shaming of a pretty intense order.
On top of that, her two BFFs are having trouble with her- one because they are caught in the crossfire and the other because he thinks he is in love with her and having a hard time being in the friend zone. Izzy deals with things using her humor, leaning into it and laughing about it, but that is getting harder to do with the press and outright harassment from students and even teachers.
The book primarily sets up the information and problematic practices of slut-shaming, “nice guys,” public shaming, and sexism/double standards.
What I loved: The book is really informative and lays out feminist stances for the events that occur. I like that Izzy sticks to her guns and knows herself so well. I also really appreciated some of the adult voices who are positive (such as one of her teachers), and who help to reinforce these messages. There is also a really great secondary story with her BFF of Indian descent, Ajita; I won’t get into the details to avoid spoiling it, but it was another great story to have threaded throughout.
What left me wanting more: The humor will appeal to the younger audience, but at times, I felt the jokes were a bit too much and some were abrasive (for instance, joking about a low IQ), but this was a relatively small point in the overall scheme and not uncommon for comedians. I think a lot in the book was a coping mechanism also, so this can also be taken with a grain of salt in that context.
Final verdict: Overall, this was an educational story about sexism in the modern era. With humor and great explanations, this was an overall interesting read. Recommend for people who are looking for something a little bit different in YA contemporary.