Publication Date: 3rd Sept 2015 from Quercus
Source: Review copy (after which I bought a shiny hardback signed copy. Had to be done)
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, she 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…
Where to start…
Asking For It will hit you hard in emotional places you didn’t even know you had. Louise O’Neill has some stark truths to put in front of us and boy does she do that without giving you ANY room to wriggle away or hide from them. This book SHOULD, assuming you are a human being, make you mad as all hell. Because sadly every single little bit of the story could be, has been and will be something that happens. Happened. Will happen again…unless we change an awful lot of attitudes.
We’ve all heard the term “Asking For It” right? And if you are honest you may have even thought about it in passing if observing an obviously drunk girl on the street especially if she is wearing something that dares to show a bit of skin. You don’t really MEAN it, but the thought or something similar may flit around in your subconcious. The problem being of course, not that you as a person are particularly horrible or unfeeling – but that this is the pervading attitude in our society that is ingrained at a very basic level and is taking WAY too long to disappear.
If you are going to take this issue and write a book that counts you are going to have to have an AMAZING amount of talent. Because anyone with any writing ability could have written the plot but not many writers would have the ability to make you feel it RIGHT IN YOUR GUT.
Not many writers would have had the audacity to create a character who is extraordinarily unlikeable, a “mean girl”, popular and unrelentingly selfish, have this horrible thing happen to her whilst she is incapable, through her own actions, of making considered decisions and then expect the reader to accept that it’s not her fault. BECAUSE IT IS NOT HER FAULT. You’ll get there. This author is not going to let you end up anywhere else…
It’s all in that deft touch you see. Telling the truth can be hard – when you are reading one of Ms O’Neill’s novels it is unrelenting, that scalpel that she writes with will cut deep and draw emotional blood. We meet Emma and her friends and the crowd they run with, we meet her Mother who has very firm idea’s of how a girl should look and how she should conduct herself – and her father who adores his little “princess”. Everyone loves Emma. Until she falls off her pedestal…
Following along for a year after the “event” we see the impact of social media, some very differing attitudes, we see inside Emma’s head and it is compelling, emotionally raw and absolutely authentic. She spirals, we spiral, heading towards an ending that is so brutally realistic that it will take your breath away. Louise O’Neill makes every word count. You won’t be able to look away but boy will you want to, will you want to hide under that duvet and pretend that the world is not actually this way, it can’t POSSIBLY be, we are enlightened this is 2015 after all.
Women are equal. If we want to drink as men do we can, no judgement. Right?
If we want to wear short skirts, high heels, flirt with the guys, give them a smile, that’s ok. Right?
Issues of consent. Issues of personal responsibility. Is there a line? Where is it?
The author asks these hard questions. Except really, as she gets across, they shouldn’t be hard questions at ALL. But it seems, in our world today, there are still those who question, when a sexual assault occurs, when a rape occurs, whether or not the victim may have been “Asking For It”.
This is some of the most brilliantly insightful writing I have come across. Ever. This should be on the national curriculum. I have no doubt that it will still be read in 100 years – HOPEFULLY as an insight for future generations into how we USED to be back when we were still learning.
One of the toughest reads of my life. As it should be.
Please read it.
They are all innocent until proven guilty. Not me, I am a liar until I am proven honest.
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