Asking For It
by Louise O’Neill
Published: 3rd September 2015
Publisher: Quercus Books
It’s the beginning of summer, and Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy and confident. One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma.
The next day, she wakes up on the front porch of her house. 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 great detail – exactly what happened to Emma that night.
But sometimes people don’t want to believe what’s right in front of them, especially if the truth concerns the town’s heroes…
I’d like to begin this review with a massive thank you to Laura from BlabberingAboutBooks, who made a video about some of her favourite YA novels from 2015. For without her video, I wouldn’t have come across this incredible novel. Whilst Laura was discussing this novel, I immediately put it onto my wish list and I bought it on my birthday a couple of days later. I picked it up once my reading slump was on its way out and I read it within 24 hours, completely dropping everything else I needed to do in order to carry on reading.
Emma goes to an all-girls school in Ireland. She’s very popular, beautiful and doesn’t she know it. One Saturday night, she drinks a lot and decides to take some drugs. Only to wake up the next day, alone on her porch, covered in vile things and in a lot of pain. The next day she attends school to see lots of eyes on her, and girls sniggering behind her back – there’s a Facebook group featuring pictures of her and a group of boys doing unspeakable things to her. She’s not conscious.
This book made me feel physically sick at times, so much so that I’m still feeling uncomfortable thinking about it all. Asking For It really tackles a lot of hard hitting topics, exploring rape culture and slut shaming, as well as the effects of social media on today’s generation. It’s an awful insight into something that happens every day, and it speaks volumes about how our society deals with rape, sexual assaults and incidents of that nature – which is essentially to avoid it at all costs. I applaud O’Neill for giving younger readers (to be fair, all readers) a book that is a powerful statement that this should be amended and that consent needs to be discussed more in literature and all other platforms.
Honestly, Emma is not a very likeable character. I saw that she’s full of herself and she’s bitchy towards all around her. She does want attention, and she does dress to get attention, the way she acts is for attention. This aspect really adds an interesting element to the statement O’Neill is making – it doesn’t matter that the person that was assaulted was awful, or that they wore a short skirt or even that they’ve consented to having sex with you in the past. No means no, and if that person isn’t in a conscious state to say either way, it is still assault.
The ending of this novel is ambiguous, the author leaving it open to interpretation. It broke my heart this novel, because it opens your eyes to just how real this is for men and women every day. The ending is a true representation of what occurs in today’s society. Asking For It is from the first persons perspective, Emma’s perspective and it’s stomach turning reading the two halves of this novel – but it was necessary to create the impact this novel needs to have on its readers.
Overall, I’m stunned by this novel. It’s a truly difficult read and even says on the dust jacket ‘not suitable for younger readers’. It is graphic, it does have strong language – but it’s a book everyone should try and read. I think it’s a book that’d be an interesting addition to the curriculum. It’s an educating read and most importantly it’s a book that evokes discussion and will encourage change.
Read it. I can’t say any more than that. It needs to be read world over.