The Exact Opposite of Okay.
Which, ironically, was actually one of the best books I've ever read. No. I'm not kidding. I'm not playing up the abilities of its author, Laura Steven, nor am I harping about "those feminist things" in a way that'll make you cringe.
Sweet. Mother. Of. Mary. This book changed everything.
The cast of characters Laura put together was loud, unyielding, so alive that they felt like real people I went to high school with. And diverse.
Let's say it louder for people in the back: THE BOOK LOOKED LIKE THE WORLD DOES.
For a South Asian girl like me, seeing a South Asian character best friend with the spunkiest personality imaginable (hysterical, by the way) and an obnoxiousness that only a high schooler can both manage to impress and induce an eye roll with, was the icing on a cake I've waited for my entire life.
Okay. I guess I'll back up now. Laura Steven's THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF OKAY (capitals are necessary because it's that good, not just because it's the title) follows Izzy O'Neill, a smartass aspiring comedian, who has sex and ends up the subject of a defamatory website that leaks nude pictures of her. The story follows her blog posts as she becomes a local, national, and global infamous celebrity and how she deals with the insane slut shaming.
Because Izzy is an aspiring comedian, the entire book is hysterical even in the moments of total anger and hurt. There is always a rebound snarky remark to take a depressing moment and add some humor in it--and it manages to leave the sting of the profound unfairness behind to make you think.
The cast of characters, as I mentioned, is diverse. From Ajita, Izzy's Nepali-American best friend, to Carter a black boy who Izzy likes, to Meg, a wheelchair bound friend...Laura's writing doesn't add diversity for the sake of token characters. The world just is. And for someone who has rarely seen her race portrayed (even my own writing!) outside of certain confining boundaries, to see Ajita's personality come alive was like lifting a burden of representation I didn't know I was carrying on my shoulders so heavily.
And the issues the book tackles. Racism. Sexism. Slut-shaming. Sex scandals. The double standard of boys versus girls in owning their sexual identity. The Nice Guy syndrome. The Friend Zone. And it's all done with so much grace. Laura navigates issues that make us think so flawlessly, with such hilarity, and doesn't seek to provide answers because there aren't any that could be adequately covered in a book--instead, it draws attention to it in a way that you'll never unsee and opens your eyes to the way the world acts when a girl gets caught experimenting and having fun.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I wish I had the words to adequately convey what it was like to read it and see people I knew, to chuckle through a Webinar I was supposed to be listening to at the sheer number of one-liners, and to pause just to think, "My God, that's the exact opposite of okay."