Asking for It by Louise O’Neill Book Review

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.

✩ ✩ / ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ 2 out of 5 stars.

I read this book at least a month ago and I got through it so quickly that I didn’t even put down that I’d read it on my Goodreads account – whutt? I don’t know if it was my review copy but the formatting of this book was really off for me and distracting me from my reading experience a lot of the time so in order to get through this story I had to turn off all the tech in the house and buckle down to give it an honest review.

Let’s start with why I wanted to read this book in the first place – it deals with the subject of rape. Actually, Asking for It doesn’t just deal with the issue of non-consensual sex but it also takes a look into the world of social media and slut-shaming of teenagers in this modern society.

Emma is the leader of the pack of her group of friends and let’s be really honest about her – she’s a vain and selfish bitch. She uses and judges her friends from the beginning and on the night she is assaulted she’s out to get laid with someone because she thinks she’s that hot. Yeah, Emma isn’t the nicest person to want to get on with and you do at points think she really deserved what she got but my real problem with this novel is how everyone gets away with their assault of her because she succumbs to the peer pressure of her own family.

On the night of her assault Emma goes out dressed to the nines and gets smashed on booze and drugs. Next thing you know she’s face-down on someone’s bed after initially leading a boy on to have sex and he’s going for it and being too rough for her to have opportunity to stop the act. Worse still Emma is then used in what effectively sounds like a gang-rape as the boys at the party she’s at take sexual advantage of her and dump her outside of her parent’s house the morning after with no memory of what happened. Emma may have been Asking for It but she didn’t say yes and that’s what’s incredibly important to remember about her story.

The morning after comes and goes and somehow these boys think it’s okay to post pictures of Emma on that night all over the internet and she comes under fire from her school friends, her family and nearly everyone in her community. When her family find out, they’re not so much as concerned about getting the justice for how their daughter was abused but how it negatively impacts themselves. I wanted to scream at the pages of this novel because her parents we so damn selfish and it’s only her brother who seems to care that this whole thing was so wrong.

Unfortunately the community that Emma and her family live in rally around the attackers instead of the her and paints these boys as innocent bystanders in Emma’s lies as they feel she’s just too ashamed of the events of that night because she doesn’t want to admit that she was a massive whore. Emma spirals into a very deep depression and effectively shuts down her own future, nothing she does seems to help the situation and it’s only when she decides to lift the charges at the end of the book that her own parents start to support her.

I may have just spilled the entire plot of this book but any new reader to this novel needs to understand how backwards O’Neill has written this situation. Not everything is black and white and not everyone believes a victim when the truth is right between their own eyes especially because Emma herself looked and acted like she was Asking for It.

A thought-provoking read and a good introduction to the author’s work, I would recommend this book but I wouldn’t say it was ground-breaking for me personally – I just got really annoyed with how Emma’s family acted throughout the whole thing.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.