Asking For It by Louise O’Neill
Asking For It is Louise O’Neill’s second novel, following in the footsteps of the incredible, award-winning Only Ever Yours.
Emma O’Donovan is an eighteen-year-old Irish girl, stunningly beautiful and with the world at her feet. Feared for her quick tongue and admired for her looks she is the ‘queen bee’ of Ballinatoom. Then one night a party changes her life forever.
Woken to her parent’s hysterical shouts as they find her crumpled like a broken doll on their doorstep, Emma’s unsure of what happened the previous night or how she even got home. There was alcohol and there was a drug but after that, she just isn’t sure. When she calls and texts her friends she’s ignored, whatever she did she knows it must have been bad. She even goes as far as to call the boys she was hanging out with to apologise and find out what happened. At school she’s shunned, labelled a slut for sleeping with someone and drunkenly kissing her friend’s boyfriend but she still can’t remember it.
Then she’s tagged a Facebook group, one that’s already hugely popular, one that’s all about her. There are photos of her naked, legs spread and looking unconscious, there are pictures of her and the boys she thought were her friends taking advantage of her. More pictures show them puking in her face and urinating on her. She struggles to believe it’s her own body as she reads the comments calling her a ‘slut’ with the picture ‘likes’ rising before her eyes. The images of her skin burn into her memory and she knows her life will never be the same again, no matter how hard she tries.
Asking For It is a devastating novel, Louise O’Neill introduces you to a hugely confident (unlikeable in my opinion) girl and gives you a close-up view of how sexual assault can pull a person apart. The social media aspect of this novel only ads to your discomfort as you read, the ease of sharing images, the faceless hate and judgement that goes with it.
After the assault, Emma’s abuse doesn’t end. People she thought of as friends, other students and most of the town turn against her, especially when the case hits the papers and tourism falls. After all this though, it’s the relationship between Emma and her parents that guts you again and again. Their inability to communicate with their daughter and understand her is utterly horrifying but feels completely realistic, leading to one of the saddest endings I’ve ever read.
It feels wrong to say I enjoyed this novel but when something it so evocative and sharp it’s hard not to lose yourself in it. Emma’s tale gets under your skin and stays there, I finished reading it over a week ago and I’m still thinking about it every day. Asking For It raises important questions on the meaning of consent and the treatment of victims by both the public and the law and doesn’t shy away putting you in the victim’s shoes. This book will devastate you, scare you more than any horror and leave you feeling physically shaken, which are just a few reasons that make it such an important read.
Buy your copy of Asking For It by Louise O’Neill