I didn’t choose these two books with a theme in mind, but there is a definite ‘Strong independent women’ link. The books are very different, but both have a storyline that explores a threat to the progression of women’s rights.
The Exact Opposite of Okay – Laura Steven
This book is pretty much the exact opposite of anything that I would normally choose to read. It is a Young Adult book, which in itself is not a problem, as I have read some pretty good YA books, but the book being about the sex life of a teenage girl and the ramification of her choices, would usually make me walk away. I have little to no interest in what teenagers get up to sexually, and am acutely aware of how the internet can be used as a weapon by bullies, so what was to be gained from reading this book? In all honesty, it turned out, for me, not much.
Did I hate it? No! I thought it was pretty well written (though I think the author would have been wise to set it in the UK, as it didn’t feel like America), and I can see why it is very well regarded as both a cautionary tale and a feminist book for millennials. Firstly it’s easy to see how Izzy, young, free and independent would think nothing of sleeping with two guys, it is after all her business and hers alone. It is also easy to see how, in this day and age, when everyone has a camera in their pocket, a voyeur at a party might film these sexual encounters. Wrong? Totally. Likely? Unfortunately Yes! Teenagers these days have so much more to worry about than we ever did in the 1980s.
Is it okay to sleep with multiple men if you are a single woman? Is it okay to slut-shame women who do? Is it okay to film people being intimate and share this online? Is it okay that people share nudes with their partner and then after a split, these are shared online? Is it okay that women are judged more harshly for having sex or being naked than men are? Is it okay that your text messages can be used as a weapon against you? Is it okay that once something is put online it can never really be removed? All of these questions and more are covered by this book, the answer is, of course, NO it’s not okay. But it happens, and if this book makes our kids think a little more and try a little harder to be decent human beings then it is a winner! I gave the book 3* because I think if I was target audience, it would really get to me. The rest of the group gave it 2 – 3*.
Stepford Wives – Ira Levin
So, this book was on a list of books that I thought I should get round to reading at some point, I had no expectations really, just hoped that it would be well written. I did have some knowledge of the story, in that for most of my life people have referred to women that they considered to be perfect homemakers as ‘Stepford Wives’. I had assumed this meant women who were pretending or forced to behave in this way, having been brainwashed, drugged or beaten into submission. The story, however, is even more sinister. I will not spoil it in case you have never read the book, but I was hooked.
for such a short book this had a huge impact. I watched as Joanna’s perfect new life in the town of Stepford unravelled. I felt panic as I realised that the town was hiding a sinister secret and I willed Joanna and her friend to discover what was going on and to get out of there. I loved this book, I read it in one sitting, It is a perfect rainy afternoon read. Even better, stick it in your bag when you are going on a train or plane, it isn’t heavy and is definitely worth a couple of hours of your time. I gave it a score of 5* and the rest of the group 4 – 5*, a little gem of a book which will keep you on the edge of your seat!