Book Review: Asking For It by Louise O’Neill.

I’ve never needed to add a trigger warning to a blog post before but I feel I should to this one. This book talks about rape and sexual assault and I’m going to address that in this post.

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…

Asking For It* was an incredibly difficult book to read. I don’t personally have triggers about the subject matter but I found myself increasingly uncomfortable, sick to my stomach, and anxious. I even needed to call a friend of mine half way through to talk about what I was reading because of how it was making me feel and in search of comfort. I think it hit me quite hard because I went to an all girls school like the characters, I’ve known girls exactly like this, and the first person narrative just gets under your skin.

The story is also familiar because it’s happened. The story is a pretty direct copy of several cases that have been well publicised over the last few years, but set in Ireland, rather than America. However, reading about it in the news and reading it in first person are two very different experiences.

The focus is very much on Emma and I think the other characters fall a little flat because of this, I struggled keeping all of her friends and family, even the rapists straight in my head because the narrative doesn’t give them much personality beyond- this girl is rich, this girl has a boyfriend, this guy plays football, this guy has a crush on Emma. And even that was confusing. Like school on the first day, you don’t know these people and you spend a lot of time putting faces to names.

The writing was very simplistic and direct, and while this put across the message very clearly, it made the whole book feel a little lacking. I missed beautiful sentences and turns of phrases that almost every other book I’ve read has managed, no matter the subject. There were lines where the same thing would be said over and over that I would skim whereas normally I’m not a skimmer at all.

I remember when I first picked up a copy of this book and saying to Daisy, “This is either going to be really well done or an complete nightmare.” Now I’ve read it, I don’t think it was either. I liked it well enough and I think it’s going to be an interesting way of getting teens to think about sexual assault, rape culture and victim blaming but I wasn’t blown away like some other readers were. Want to buy it? You can get a copy here!

Are you going to read Asking For It?

*I received this at the Dodocon event. I am not obligated to talk about it on my blog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s