Author Laura Steven issues social media warning

A Northumberland-born writer, who set out to “cause a stir” with her first book, has warned teenagers about the perils of social media.northumberland-born-writer-laura-steven

Although it was only published in March, “The Exact Opposite of Okay” has been described as ground-breaking and “timely and much needed”.

Its author Laura Steven, who grew up in Berwick, visited Cramlington Learning Village to lead a comedy writing workshop for Year 10 students.

She told them that she switched to comedy after her thrillers and fantasies were dismissed as too serious.

“The world feels so terrible at the minute and we all enjoy laughing.  Even if the world hopefully gets better I will always try and make people laugh because there is no person alive who doesn’t like laughing,” she said.

“The Exact Opposite of Okay” tells the story of 18-year-old Izzy O’Neill who has a fling with the son of a politician and becomes the victim of abuse on social media when pictures are posted.

“A lot of negative stuff happens to her and the guy faces almost no negative consequences and still gets into the law school he wants to.  I wanted to make people angry in that respect.  I wanted to show people that these are the facts and this is the way our world works right now – and it’s the exact opposite of OK,” said Laura.

Despite the subject matter Izzy relates her story with humour and her creator admits the character was influenced by Bridget Jones.  The book is written for teenagers and is deliberately controversial but not offensive.laura-steven-with-students-at-a-writing-workshop

“I wanted to issue a positive call to action, especially for teenage girls.  My main character in the book often says that she’s really disappointed that when this terrible thing happens to her. She expects this big show of feminine support but it just doesn’t happen.  The other girls are just as bad,” said Laura who – as well as writing a sequel, a spin-off story and an adult novel – works for Myslexia, a creative writing magazine for women, based in Newcastle.

“I wrote it back in 2016 and it was obviously before all the Me Too stuff came to light and before the Time’s Up movement started.  I wanted to cause a stir, but I had no idea how relevant it was going to become – and part of me is sad that it is still relevant.  You always hope that things are going to get better.”

Cramlington Learning Village librarian Eileen Armstrong said “The Exact Opposite of Okay” is a timely warning for the school’s Year 10 students, who are on the verge of becoming young adults.  “Laura’s book is a brilliant example of contemporary publishing for young adults.  It tackles a relevant, topical issue in a way our students can relate to and it really makes them think.”

Laura Steven is the latest in a growing list of high-profile writers to visit the school.  “We are so pleased that they come to speak to the students,” said Eileen.  “We try to make sure that all of our year groups, as well as the primary school children who are joining us, hear what it takes to write a book.   For many of our students it is a fantastic opportunity to meet their favourite authors as well as discover new ones and that can only encourage them to read even more.”