Friday, 9 October 2015

Asking For It by Louise O'Neill


Title: Asking For It
Author: Louise O'Neill
Published by: Quercus Books
Publication date: 3rd September 2015
Pages: 384
Genres: YA Contemporary/Feminism
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from The Guardian.

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, Emma 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... 

Louise O'Neill is back (back again, look who's back, tell a friend, etc) with another important story, this time about rape. It's vital reading for people everywhere and yet it's also something often swept under the rug, especially in YA fiction. This may only be her second book, but it's clear that O'Neill is blazing her own path in literature.

Emma O'Donovan is the girl everyone wants to be. She is beautiful, seems to have time for everyone and is the queen of backhanded compliments. She must be the centre of attention in every situation, and she always needs to look better than her friends - and everyone else, for that matter.

And then Emma is gang-raped at a party and graphic photographs end up all over Facebook. As a result, her world gets smaller and smaller. No one wants to be Emma O'Donovan anymore, and the only person who is truly on her side is Bryan, her older brother. Everyone else thinks she was asking for it.

Reading this book reminded me of massive posters we had around my old school. They said things like '1 in 3 women who are raped are drunk'. I have no idea if that statistic is true, by the way, but it was something along those lines. There were other variations of the poster, too - 1 in 3 women who are raped are on drugs, out by themselves at night, wearing short skirts; the list goes on. Basically, the posters were all about victim-blaming and I'm still appalled that they were allowed on the walls of our school. Proof, I think, that books like this need to exist.

Whilst I loved this book and I'm glad someone finally decided to introduce something so important into YA fiction, I personally think it might have been more beneficial had the court case gone ahead and the boys ended up in prison. It could have encouraged victims to come forward and get justice. But I also know that that doesn't always happen. The victim doesn't always win the court case or come out of it better off, and Asking For It did a good job in highlighting that more needs to be done about that. Highlight text to view spoiler.

Now, I don't totally agree with books having age ratings, but Asking For It has been labelled 16+, and with strong language and graphic scenes I kiiiiind of agree, but I think it's something you have to decide for yourself. Just thought that was worth pointing out. I definitely recommend this and, if you haven't read it yet, Only Ever Yours, the first book by O'Neill. Both are absolutely phenomenal and I can't wait for more!


  1. I feel bad saying I liked this book but I think it's so important. I do agree with your spoiler but I also think it was even more shocking and realistic the way it was, because so often others go through what Emma did and they have the same outcome. Smalltown jock culture is something I haven't seen too much outside of books set in the USA and that definitely exists here - GAA (local football) players can be hailed as local heroes, as untouchable. It was a really uncomfortable read but definitely a worthwhile one and I can't wait for Louise's next book x

  2. I haven't read Louise's books because I'm a sensitive reader and her books deal with quite hectic topics, but I'd really like to read this because it's a book that deals with something that people should be more aware of. Wonderful review, Amber! :)

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    Blog of a Bookaholic