Review: Asking For It by Louise O'Neill

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Asking For It | Louise O'Neill | Published September 2015
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Asking For It is such an important book.

Eighteen year old Emma O'Donovan lives in a small town in Ireland and like a lot of teenage girls she likes to go out with her friends and party. One night she goes to a party, gets drunk, takes some drugs and flirts with a few guys. The next morning, she wakes up on her front porch with absolutely no memory of what happened the night before. But not to worry: there are hundreds of photos posted to Facebook which show exactly what happened to her.

Emma O'Donovan is beautiful and she knows it. She's confident, she's selfish and not a very good friend. Emma is not a likeable character and the decision to make her so makes this story all the harder to read. Generally it is difficult to sympathise with unlikeable characters and that is the point here: we don't have to like Emma. Being unlikeable doesn't mean that you weren't raped. You can be the bitch of the century and no still means no. Emma being so unlikable opens the reader's eyes to the way we (society as a whole) tend to think about rape victims: their personal life is always dragged up. How promiscuous are they, how often do they get drunk, how often do they have sex, what kind of clothes do they wear, are they a nice person? Emma deals with all of this in the aftermath of her rape. The people of her town completely turn against her in favour of her rapists and the media are constantly discussing her. Is it any wonder that so few rape victims report their assault?

The reactions and behaviour of her friends and family (particularly her parents) were one of the hardest aspects to read for me. I really just could not believe the attitude of her parents and their utter unwillingness to just believe their daughter. They were more interested in their image and losing their "friends" and that was just utterly heartbreaking. Emma's brother is probably the only decent character in the entire book.

As for the ending (SPOILERS):

I can't stress enough how important I think this book is, especially in today's society. There are countless cases in the media concerning rape, and what is defined as consent, as well as rapists who get off incredibly lightly whilst victims are left to suffer. Asking For It deals with the issue of not explicitly saying no but not saying yes either, a lack of memory of the rape, slut-shaming, victim-blaming and the increasing use of social media. This is a must-read for everyone.

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  1. Wow this looks like a very important book for people to read and learn from especially with the Stanford rape case going around in the news in the U.S. right now. It is crazy to think that people actually blame the victims of rape for the crime done to them, but it happens way too often today. Great review! I am glad you brought this book to my attention.

    Chioma @ Blue Books and Butterflies

    1. It is really relevant to the Stanford case; I can't believe how shocking that is. Victim blaming does happen way too often and this book shows that really well I think. Some of the reactions from people are just terrible. Thank you! I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did :D