A Girl Called Shameless by Laura Steven
From Goodreads: It’s been two months since a leaked explicit photo got Izzy involved in a political sex scandal – and the aftershock is far from over. The Bitches Bite Back movement is gathering momentum as a forum for teenage feminists, and when a girl at another school has a sex tape shared online, once again Izzy leads the charge against the slut-shamer. This time she wants to change the state law on revenge porn.
Izzy and her best friend Ajita are as hilarious as ever, using comedy to fight back against whatever the world throws at them, but Izzy is still reeling from her slut-shaming ordeal, feeling angry beyond belief and wondering – can they really make a change?
Hey everyone, today I’m going to be bringing you a book review of the brilliant, contemporary YA A Girl Called Shameless. The first book in the series, The Exact Opposite of Okay, came out a while ago in the UK (I want to say two years based on YALC?) but it’s only just being released in the U.S.
I read the first novel before it came out. There was a giveaway at YALC convention in London, so I got to meet the author (who is also from Newcastle!) and heard a bit about the book. When I got to it, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. The humour was pretty… immature, and I felt as though there were a lot of cringy things in it. But, ultimately, I loved the theme of it, and the message behind The Exact Opposite of Okay. It’s a book about the damaging effect of revenge porn and how sharing sexts or videos can seriously impact on a person’s life. And although the book was full of jokes, it didn’t hold back on the emotional punches either.
A Girl Called Shameless picks up on this. It follows Izzy a few months after the first novel, and although her nude images are no longer the talk of the town, they’re still out there in the public. To paraphrase what the character herself says, those images are online. They’re available for anyone to look at whenever they choose. Which is a very scary though. I’d hate to not be in control of who can see my body. But anyway, I digress. The girl whose images get leaked this time is another girl at Izzy’s school, one who ‘slut-shamed’ her when the images of Izzy were being circulated in the first book.
I feel like A Girl Called Shameless is a lot more nuanced. The humour is still there, and it did make Izzy sound a little immature at times. But, it didn’t annoy me as much this time around. I don’t know if that’s because it is toned down at all, or if perhaps I have grown a bit more tolerant of the crass jokes because I know the message of the novel is worth wading through it. I think maybe it’s the former? There are still jokes in there, jokes about vaginas and farts and all these other things, but it just fades into the background a bit more for me.
One of the strongest things going for the book, IMO, is how it emphasizes the long-lasting damage of revenge porn. It talks about how those images can ruin future prospects of a career, not just when it is first released online, but years and years down the line because employers can do checks. How universities and colleges can reject someone based on this. How families feel seeing their kids or siblings or whoever’s naked body sexualised on the internet. How friends react. There’s also discussion of how there’s clearly a double-standard with these kinds of images and sexual liberation in general– men can be seen as heroes, who get lucky and are praised for it. Meanwhile women are ‘sluts’ because they sleep around and supposedly don’t respect their own bodies. So they get scolded and publicly humiliated and shamed.
It’s an important message, and I feel like it’s addressed really well in Steven’s book. The emphasis not only tries to encompass the problem of revenge porn on an individual level, but also how governments could be doing more to tackle this and shut it down. I like that the book doesn’t just try and cover what the first book does. I was a little worried seeing the synopsis that it might just be about Izzy trying to support another girl who goes through a similar thing, so it was great to see that this plot actually developed and went somewhere that The Exact Opposite of Okay didn’t.
One of the other things I also really liked was how it didn’t try and do the ‘men cause this to happen, so they can’t join us’ thing. The male characters in this book are pretty varied. Some of them understand what is happening, and even support Izzy and her choices and help. Some of the don’t get it, and there’s a handful of really meaningful conversations about redemption and guilt in there, and some of them come to realise they’ve made mistakes in the past. Some boys in the book mention other prejudices and privileges that go on in the world that should also be highlighted. Not to try and dismiss what Izzy is trying to do, but to acknowledge that privilege is not necessarily a ladder, there’s not always clear levels or a system to it. A Girl Called Shameless recognises a whole host of these different intersections, including race, sexuality, ableism and financial status.
Overall, I think A Girl Called Shameless should be required reading. I feel a little bit weird suggesting that, since I hate the thought of saying someone ‘needs’ to read a book, but I feel like the message is so important for people to hear. The humour isn’t always my cup of tea, but I just love how nuanced the discussion is and how deep it gets. I was a little worried that a second book might take away some of the power of the first book, but it really only adds to it.
So I’m giving A Girl Called Shameless a 9/10 stars.
Has anyone else read this book already or plans to? What do you all think of it? Let me know in the comment section down below ❤