Review of Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

(Heads up: I’m about to talk about the themes presented in this book which mainly consist of sexual assault and rape. If you’re triggered by anything like this, please consider this your warning. Thank you.)

Cast your minds back to earlier this year, when Louise O’Neill’s debut novel, Only Ever Yours, with it’s excellently executed themes and infuriatingly ambiguous ending, won the inaugural YA Book Prize. I reviewed it for The Guardian the day of the Prize, and I was blown away by how powerfully Louise writes. When I heard Asking For It was coming out, I had to grit my teeth and bear the excitement to waltz into a bookshop that I shall not name but rhymes with Daughter Stones, and buy it. It’s the first time I’ve spent over £10 on one individual book, and do I think it was worth it? Pointless question.

Emma O’Donovan. She’s 18, young, beautiful, makes the men stop and stare. She’s popular, life’s going pretty good for her. Then she goes to that party. Someone gives her something. She gets drunk, though not through choice. She’s attacked. And the next day, she remembers nothing as she wakes up on her porch. But the Facebook page does, and in vivid detail too. She can’t remember a thing, and everyone else tells her what she did, whether they support her or not. But does it count if you can’t remember?

This book is phenomenal on so many levels.

On the face of it, we’re presented with a variety of different characters that are so beautifully presented to the reader, and you get to know a lot about them. You’re presented with clearly thought out settings and a clearly thought out plot, it’s unmistakable how well this book has been thought about and written.

Rape is a touchy topic, and for a long time nobody’s really wanted to talk about it. Louise rightly points out in her afterword that girls are taught about it in school with an impending sense of doom, and society is rigged in favour of men. Rape isn’t taken seriously, and it would appear like in many cases the court trials just exist to try and prove the victim of being someone who really wanted it. 

Louise points out that this is wrong, and said she wants to live in a world where it is taken seriously. 

The conversations that Asking For It has kicked off are fantastic, and I think that they need to continue long after this book has been published. We need to have these conversations, and I’ve said before in public discussions that we need fiction to play it’s part in helping to generate a taboo-less society. If you take anything away from you after reading Asking For It, I think it should be that these conversations need to happen and Asking For It is a great place to start.

Like I said with Only Ever Yours, I am definitely on the edge of my seat to know what Louise will write next. 

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