Asking For It by Louise O’ Neill Review

Thank you to Netgalley for providing us with a digital copy.

Taking place in Ireland, Asking For It tells the story of Emma O’Donovan, an eighteen year old girl full of confidence and life. She is popular, beautiful and happy – and she knows it. One night there is a party and everyone is there but the next thing Emma remembers is waking up on her front porch with no memory of the night’s events. What follows is a series of explicit photographs surfacing on social media of Emma and what happened to her. However, like many victims of sexual assault, Emma isn’t believed and her community take the side of her attackers.
(TW: Sexual Assault)

Angharad’s thoughts:
This book is important. This book is horrific. This book will make you angry. It deals with rape culture and the affects of social media. It shows us how much gets taken away from the victims and how half of the time, nobody believes them anyway. It makes you think of how many victims haven’t made their voices heard because they are afraid. Most importantly, it shows that no matter what sort of person you are, no matter what gender, no matter what situation you are in, rape is rape and it is never your fault.

‘I make my mind go blank. I am not that girl anymore. I am an It. I am a collection of doll parts, of pink flesh, of legs spread open for all to see.’

For obvious reasons I know that going into this book, I was going to spend majority of the time being angry. I wasn’t wrong. The story starts with Emma being a very confident young girl. She’s beautiful and she knows it. She has many friends, she’s popular and she’s sexually aware. I really love that Louise O’Neill wrote Emma like this. Yes, she was sexually active, confident and beautiful but does that mean she was asking to get raped? Absolutely not. The only complaint I have with the beginning of this book is that there are a lot of characters, who are all named. This made it difficult during the party scene because there were so many names floating about. I got quite confused but this was such a minor annoyance that I couldn’t mark the book down. 

The second half of this book was heartbreaking, especially when the story continues a year after the event. Emma is a completely different person – she has been ostracised by all her friends and the entire community, she has stopped going to school, her family is falling apart and Emma herself is just an empty shell. She keeps having invasive thoughts, she still blames herself. This is not an easy book, it hasn’t got a happy ending, it hasn’t even got a ‘satisfactory’ ending but it’s realistic. This is happening all over the world and whether it’s in the media or not, it is too common. It makes me angry to read these books but I feel a need to so I can spread the word. 

‘My body is not my own any more. They have stamped their names all over it.’

Becky’s thoughts:
Honestly, I really struggled with this book.

I’m not saying that because I disliked it (as you can probably tell from the five stars that I gave it) but because it was just so painfully true to life that I really felt for Emma, the main character, and it hit me hard how the plot of this book could easily be the reality of so many girls around the world right now. 

Asking For It tells the story of Emma, a young, confident Irish girl, and what happens to her one night when she goes to a party. When she wakes up the next day with no memory of what happened or how she got home, photos from the night before begin to circulate the internet and accusations and rumours start to spread. Emma is the victim of the situation, but in the eyes of her community, she becomes the perpetrator. 
(How many boys?)
(What were you wearing?)
(How much did you have to drink?)

Asking For It is a must read. It delves into rape culture, slut shaming, and the dangers of social media in a way that I’ve rarely seen done in a novel before. I cannot emphasise the importance of this book. 

I thought it was intriguing how the author almost tries to turn the reader against Emma in the beginning of the book, emphasising her self confidence and her need to be the most beautiful girl in town, as well as bringing up her sex life. It brings up the question of, despite the way Emma acted or dressed, was she still asking to be raped? Of course she wasn’t.
I had liked it before. I had encouraged them.
(Maybe I had been asking for it.)

I almost knocked a star off my rating for this book, purely because I was dissatisfied with the ending, but then I realised – that’s not what this book is about. Despite using a fictional situation with fictional characters, this book tells a true story of possibly millions of girls, so many of whom would have been dissatisfied with the ending to the story of their trauma. 

As Louise O’Neill states in the afterword:
We need to talk about rape. We need to talk about consent. We need to talk about victim-blaming and slut shaming and the double standards we place upon our young men and women. We need to talk and talk and talk until the Emmas of this world feel supported and understood. Until they feel like they are believed.

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? 
Let us know in the comments below!

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