“I Am Not Okay With This” is not your typical coming of age story

With a cliffhanger finale, “I Am Not Okay With This” follows the origin story of Sydney Novak, a teenager who has to learn to handle her superpowers and puberty. Despite the show’s imperfections, it’s unique plot and characters keep you wanting to watch more.

Based off of Charles Forsman’s graphic novel, Netflix’s adaptation of “I Am Not Okay With This” was released on Feb. 26, 2020. The show follows Sydney Novak (Sophia Lillis), who finds herself trying to navigate her high school life, sexuality, and newfound superpowers with the help of her eclectic neighbor Stanley Barber (Wyatt Oleff) and her best friend and love interest Dina (Sofia Bryant).

The first we see of the main character, she is covered in blood, “Carrie” style, running towards the camera while police sirens sound in the background. Nearly every episode starts with this clip, foreshadowing the finale.

While some of the foreshadowing is obvious, this doesn’t make the show worse. Instead it serves its purpose, leaving you in anticipation. 

“We always loved the idea of a slow burn for this one”, the show’s co-creator Christy Hall says in an interview with Variety, “how do we keep this contained for as long as humanly possible in order to make an expansion that much more exciting?”

Unfortunately, we won’t be able to find out what happens after the cliffhanger in “I Am Not Okay With This” since this show, as well as “The Society,” have been cancelled by Netflix. Netflix says in a statement to Deadline that, “We’ve made the difficult decision not to move forward with second seasons of The Society and I Am Not Okay With This.” Both shows are said to have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I Am Not Okay With This” is supposedly set in the early 2000’s, but if cell phones weren’t present you wouldn’t have guessed it. The show’s aesthetic reflects shows like “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” or “Stranger Things.” It’s nostalgic, set in a somewhat ambiguous time period, and showcases many film references from the ‘70s and ‘80s from “The Breakfast Club” to “Carrie”.

Sydney narrates the show through her diary, assigned to her by a school counselor to deal with her anger issues. Since her father recently commited suicide and her best friend started dating the stereotypical highschool bully, Brad (Richard Ellis), Sydney has a lot to write about. Sydney’s emotions play a large role throughout the show, after all, they are the source of her superpowers. Yes, her superpowers. When any of Sydney’s emotions become overwhelming,  her psychokinesis takes control. From turning off faucets, to splitting open walls, Sydney’s powers are uncontrollable to her. Throughout the series her inner turmoil and her powers continue to grow.

Sydney discovers a lot about herself throughout the series. Similar to many coming-of-age stories, she has some of her first romantic experiences. From the beginning of the show, it’s clear how much Sydney cares for Dina, and after a failed attempt of trying to convince herself she has romantic feelings for Stanley Barber, she realizes her true feelings for her.

“I just have to be harsh, tell Stan I don’t like him in that way. I should like him in that way, but I don’t. Why don’t I?” narrates Sydney as Stan attempts to ask her to Homecoming. Sydney’s narration throughout the show constantly hints towards her questioning her sexuality, even if she doesn’t necessarily notice it at first. After coming to terms with her sexuality, Sydney risks losing her best friend when tensions rise after she shares a kiss with Dina. However, in the final episode her relationship becomes more optimistic when they go to the dance together as friends and Dina eventually tells Sydney that she enjoyed the kiss they shared.

Sydney’s relationship with her family is much more complicated. Part of her wants to understand the mystery behind her father’s suicide. It’s clear that she loves and looks up to her father, but this causes conflict between Sydney and her mother, Maggie (Kathleen Rose Perkins) who feels like Sydney continues to side against her and defend her father. Eventually, the two reach an understanding, and Sydney learns that she’s more like her father then she thought. When Sydney visits the basement where her father died, she discovers a box full of her father’s mementos from the Marines, specifically his identification tags. Sydney’s mother finds her, and explains that “No one could possibly know what he was dealing with.” 

As she continues to explain Sydney’s father’s experiences, Sydney begins to realize that he could have had the same powers as her: “He had something in him, Syd. Something that he was always wrestling with, and that thing, won.” Maggie says to Sydney. It’s this moment that Sydney not only reconciles with her mother, but also faces the choice that she must either face the same fate as her father, or accept herself, whoever that might be.

This choice is brought up again in the final moments of the last episode. Sydney is more alone than she’s ever been; we see her running away from the Homecoming dance after quite literally blowing Brad’s mind, covered in blood, just how the show started. She’s lost control after being humiliated and outed in front of her classmates, thrust into the spotlight in the worst possible way, all she wanted was a “normal high school experience”. It’s hard to say what Sydney’s end to the story will be. It seems that as much as Sydney wants to be able to accept herself, she has to face the same fate as her father. That is, until a mysterious shadowy figure appears, seeming to be offering help.

“I Am Not Okay With This” is not your typical coming-of-age story. The show is carefully laid out, and showcases the awkwardness of being a teenager without coming across as too cheesy or ridiculous. This show is carried by it’s incredible storytelling and cast as well as the engaging visuals.