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Laura Steven: The Exact Opposite of Okay

The Exact Opposite of Okay is my YA debut, which was published by Egmont on International Women’s Day 2018. It’s about an aspiring comedian whose world implodes when dirty pictures involving her, a politician’s son and a garden bench emerge online. It explores serious themes like slut-shaming, friend-zoning, revenge porn, victim-blaming and Nice Guy syndrome, but full disclosure, there are also a lot of rude jokes. I am probably never going to win the Booker.

In this book, I don’t shy away from politics. I’m often asked what these big themes are doing in teen fiction, but when the President of the United States can openly brag about grabbing girls and still win an election, we have to acknowledge that something is deeply wrong with our society – and we have to address it at its root. So yes, the novel was incredibly politically charged, but I believe all good fiction is. George Orwell once wrote: ‘The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.’

What this book isn’t is a critique of social media. The problem with assigning blame to social media in discussions around revenge porn is that it removes blame from the perpetrator and absolves them of guilt. The individual who decided to leak the nude photo or sex tape should be held solely accountable, not the weapon they used. It’s like blaming a knife in a murder. Instead, I wanted to unpack what would motivate someone to do this awful thing in the first place.

Ultimately, through Izzy’s story, I really want to inspire teenagers to speak up and fight back against the never-ending stream of misogyny they have to face on a daily basis. This stuff isn’t just teenage melodrama. It really matters.

Laura Steven is an author, journalist and screenwriter from the northernmost town in England. The Exact Opposite of Okayher young adult debut about slut-shaming, is out now in the UK and has been widely translated. HarperTeen will publish the North American edition in summer 2019. The sequel is A Girl Called Shameless.

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