Book Reviews

Book Review: Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

30965521Published: July 7th, 2016 by Riverrun.

Format: Kindle Edition, 352 pages.

Goodreads Summary: It’s the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma. The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can’t remember what happened, she doesn’t know how she got there. She doesn’t know why she’s in pain. But everyone else does. Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don’t want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town’s heroes.

Thoughts: In the interest of keeping this review straight forward, I will refrain from my personal comments until the very end. Asking For It by Louise O’Neill tells the story of an 18-year-old girl named Emma who is in her last year of secondary school. O’Neill has created a story the expands beyond fiction. Emma O’Donovan is a real person. She exists somewhere in the world with a different name. O’Neill presents us with a topic that society doesn’t like to talk about and sweeps under the rug as if it never happened. Sexual assault is not something to be taken lightly. And this book takes the issue head on.

The author challenges the reader to look at every angle and side of the issue. While reading, she makes you question who is truly at fault and how you would react in a similar situation. The most difficult and arguably most clever part of this novel is the main character herself. Emma O’Donovan is terrible. She is self-centered. She is a liar, a tease, and a thief. She knows she is beautiful and flaunts it. It isn’t difficult to hate her. I did.

But despite all her unfavorable qualities and hideous behavior, she is still a victim.

Asking For It presents rape in all it’s ugliness. The reader is forced to tackle a subject that has the ability to quickly reveal someone’s true moral code. This is a topic that needs more attention and I urge more people to read this book. Through this book, O’Neill is starting a conversation.

On a personal note, this book was difficult to read. However, It never sugar-coated the important events regardless of being categorized as a Young Adult novel, which I was grateful for. There were times when I was so frustrated that I wanted to throw the book across the room or stop reading, but I made myself finish this one. Through reading, I questioned my views on gender, consent, and personal assumptions. As for O’Neill’s writing itself, I thought it captured the perspective of teenagers really well. There were times in the beginning that I felt I was being bombarded with character introductions. It took me a while to figure out who was who. I also wish that she would have mentioned that sexual assault can happen to anyone, man or women. In the end, Louise O’Neill cares about this topic and that is very apparent when reading this novel.

This is a heartbreaking and realistic book that more people should read. The national conversation about sexual assault is slowly growing, but there is still a lot of work to do. If you have a continued interest in this topic I suggest reading more about cases and watching documentaries such as The Hunting Ground and Audrie and Daisy. Both are worth a watch. Rape isn’t something that we should ignore.

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