Title: Asking For It
Author: Louise O’Neill
Genre: YA, New Adult, Contemporary, Feminism
Publication Date: 3rd September 2015
Summary: In a small town where everyone knows everyone, Emma O’Donovan is different. She is the special one – beautiful, popular, powerful. And she works hard to keep it that way.
Until that night . . .
Now, she’s an embarrassment. Now, she’s just a slut. Now, she is nothing.
And those pictures – those pictures that everyone has seen – mean she can never forget.
Asking For It has been on my radar since it’s release in 2015. My excitement for this novel only heightened when i had read that it had won Book Of The Year 2015 for The Irish Book Awards. It’s been highly commented on and highly acclaimed due to it’s risky topic of rape, feminism and to be completely honest, ‘lad culture’.
To start off, i’m not going to rate this book. I won’t give it a star rating or anything out of five, or ten, or whatever because quite frankly, this novel is extremely problematic. I was a little skeptical of going in to my first novel that was based around sexual assault, and especially as the protagonist is so close in age to myself. However what i got was a very disappointing attempt at portraying society and something that seemed a little halfhearted from the protagonist.
The general story-line is that Emma and her group of friends seem to be ‘popular’ and well liked by many people at the school. They’re gorgeous, have a lot money and can get guys easily. Whilst at one party, Emma drinks excessively and takes some recreational drugs, enough to make her completely unaware of what was happening. The next morning, photos surface online of Emma ‘allegedly’ being raped by a group of male friends at the party, while she’s completely unaware.
Asking For Is is supposed to be a hard read. It’s supposed to make you think and to impact you in some way. This novel then goes through all the usual denial from the men, the self hatred of Emma and her friends slowly becoming more distant. It focuses more on Emma’s feelings and the way this is effecting her family more than the actual case of what is happening.
I’ll say it again, this book was damaging. I personally have never been involved in anything remotely like this, nor do i know anyone that has. However, even i could tell that if a suffer was to read this, it would be incredibly damaging and probably give the wrong message out. Emma seemed to accept her fate, that the boys who were involved were not at fault for what happened. She accepted her destiny to be alone and isolated for the rest of her life.
Asking For It also seemed to claim that society would not be on Emma’s side at all. I completely understand that there is a certain amount of stigma around feminism, sexual assault and rape that is still sadly negative, that girls shouldn’t entice boys and it wouldn’t happen. However i found the view taken in this a little too far. For example, it turned out that her parents were not even on her side. That they accepted she was a ‘whore’ and a ‘slut’ as named in the novel and completely abandoned her feelings towards it. This is not realistic in the slightest, and definitely gives out the wrong message that everyone would be against you if something this tragic happened.
This novel primarily discusses the effect that rape has on society. And this novel is primarily wrong.
There are so many things that i could mention that could be hurtful for so many people. I never read the Afterwords at the end of novels, i like to leave a story without the authors interpretation and gather my thoughts myself. However i very much wanted to know what Louise O’Neill thought was acceptable about this novel and how she intended the story to look. She says that;
We need to talk and talk and talk until the Emma’s of the world feel supported and understood.
and she also discusses that sexual assault shouldn’t be something that is regarded as a ‘norm’ of womanhood. Which is completely correct, i agree with all of these things. However this novel did not encompass those thoughts in the slightest. This novel shows the worst parts of society, and even in myself, made me feel very alone.
I think O’Neill attempted to write a very ‘raw’ and true account of something like this happening. However, she created characters that were quite far from real and situations that probably wouldn’t happen. Conversations that wouldn’t happen and i struggle to believe that no-one around Emma would support her.
I would love to read another book about sexual assault to compare my opinions on the stories. If anyone has any recommendations, please leave them down below and i will get to it asap.
There are some wonderful parts to this story. The writing is easy and flows so well and the characters are wonderfully written. However i just cannot get on board with the troubling topics and conversations that are had. I’m sure there are plenty more novels out there that are a little more supporting than this one is.