My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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…
I bought Asking For It in September, in a beautiful hardback edition. It sat on my shelf for a good six months, despite the rave reviews and recommendations. Why? Because Asking For It isn’t an easy read – but it is a necessary one.
I finally picked up Asking For It after a Twitter poll, and devoured it within two days. I didn’t want to put it down.
Asking For It follows the story of a Irish girl called Emma, who is pretty and she knows it. She’s genuinely difficult to like. She’s mean to her friends, self-obsessed with her image, and knows she can have any boy she wants (even if that means destroying her friendships). She dresses provocatively, she drinks, she does drugs… and then she gets raped. She doesn’t remember it, but suddenly it’s all over social media, and her friends don’t want to know her anymore. She feels guilty.
Asking For It is a difficult book to read, because it touches on so many important issues. It tackles slut-shaming and victim-shaming, consent and sexual assault. These issues are hugely important in our society today, where 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual violence. 11 rapes take place every hour in England and Wales. Emma is wholeheartedly a victim, but one who feels so ashamed that she pretends she isn’t one. The media, her friends and her family don’t know what to believe.
Asking For It also excels in touching upon other important issues briefly – bulimia/eating disorders, masturbation shaming, and the lack of access to abortion services in Ireland (“I’d be on the first boat to England, like”). The pressure on girls to grow up quickly, to dress like adults as teenagers, is also briefly featured.
On a lighter note, I really enjoyed how Asking For It was set in Ireland. Many YA books are set either in America, or an anonymous English town, and I loved the details that made this book so obviously Irish.
If you pick up one book this year, make it Asking For It. Each Louise O’Neill novel I’ve read (and will read in the future) has been so poignant, making pointed arguments and really changing the way I think on serious issues. These are not books that leave you as soon as you put them down – they are thought-provoking and cleverly written.
I also really enjoyed this article by Louise on the aftermath of publishing Asking For It – https://www.the-pool.com/arts-culture….
To summarise, this is a young adult novel with a serious point, and necessary reading for all.