Asking For It By Louise O’Neill
It’s the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confidentOne 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 first became aware of Louise when I read her award winning debut, ‘Only Ever Yours’ a book set in a dystopian world where women are artificially created and men are born naturally, the book was so gripping and depressing in equal measures that I was unable to put it down and this was also the case with her new book ‘Asking For It’.
Unlike ‘Only Ever Your’s’, ‘Asking For It’ is set in a small Irish town, where religion and good living is important and small mindedness is rife in the tight community.
The story concentrates on one very important subject and that is the issue of consent when it comes to sex and the power of social media and just how drastically, these once fun forums can change someones life for the absolute worst.
‘Asking For It’ is seen solely through the eyes of Emma, who unfortunately is not a nice girl. She’s bitchy, jealous and extremely manipulative. The leader of a group of popular girls, girls want to be her friend and boys want to with her and Emma uses this to her advantage as much as she can,. Until one night she gets completely drunk and ends up on her porch the following day, remembering nothing. But, as time goes by, pictures begin to appear on the internet of her with different boys and suddenly her life changes for the worst when she finds herself not only the victim of rape but online bullying as the community and her friends turn against her, purely because of her behaviour, how she was dressed and who her attackers were.
Like Louise, I am also from Ireland and I am fully aware of one of the stories that influenced her to write this type of story. A couple of years ago, a story appeared all over social media, about a 17 year old girl called ‘Slane Girl’ who was pictured at a concert in Slane with various boys in compromising positions, ‘Slane Girl’ became the target for trolling and was bullied all over the internet whilst the boys in the pictures were never mentioned.
The realism of this story, makes for incredibly bleak and raw reading, as it highlights just how times and attitudes have changed. It’s already hard enough for a person to deal with being raped, being violated but to then have the finger of blame pointed at them purely because of what a person is wearing is just utterly mind blowing. The book really points out just how messed up society is, how the victim is left to feel guilt even though they are already struggling with so many negative emotions.
As the story is seen solely through her eyes, it makes for unsettling reading, as she battles with her emotions and tries to appear stronger than she is, particularly when she has flashbacks which are pretty horrific. Even though Emma isn’t a nice person, it’s still heartbreaking to see this confident, bold character become a shadow of herself and try to carry on with life, even though the world is against her. The majority of the story makes for hard reading, as Emma battles with problems and lack of support around her whilst the finger the blame and doubt is regularly pointed at her.
With graphic content and a harrowing storyline, that sadly is probably an everyday occurrence, ‘Asking For It’ is a gripping, hard hitting story that highlights the incredible importance of consent, how warped society has become and just how powerful and destroying social media can be, a book that everyone shoud read.
You can buy Asking For It from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.