Asking For It
Author: Louise O'Neill
Publication Date: September 3rd 2015
Publisher: Quercus Children's
~A copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review~
FROM THE WINNER OF THE SUNDAY INDEPENDENT NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR AWARD.
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...
Last year, Louise O’Neill’s debut, Only Ever Yours was a much needed book in YA, and I loved Only Ever Yours, it was honest, and It was easily one of my favourite releases from last year, and just easily one of my favourites. Now, Louise O’Neill has written another much needed story that everyone should read. Upon finishing reading Asking For It, I wanted to cry, and hug Louise O’Neill for writing that much needed book and hit a wall. And eat my feelings in gelato, and I honestly don’t know how I’m going to give it justice while talking about it at all, because there are just no words.
*This "review" is going to be more of a discussion of what Asking For It represents, more than an actual review. I am and will be
ranting discussing the rape in Asking For it, so if that's a trigger for you, I'm forewarning..
Emma, in the beginning, in short, is a horrible human being.
But she’s a product of her parents (seriously don’t get me started on her parents.), she’s a product of society, and she’s a product of a teenage girl in our society. So yes, she’s mean, she’s jealous, she’s envious, she’s bitchy, she’s not a good friend, she’s fake, she wears ‘slutty’ (and I’m saying ‘slutty’ for a reason.) but at the end of the day, she can’t win. Because if she isn’t one thing, she’s not the other, so she is relatable. But, Asking for It brings up the huge question, because she isn’t a nice person, because she was drunk, because she took drugs, because she was trying to keep up who she’s supposed to be, and she was supposed to be the best, was she asking for it? Did she deserve it?
It’s a question that a) shouldn’t be asked and B) shouldn’t be answered. But, Asking For It is asking it, and it’s answering it.
No one deserves to be raped. No one deserves to be degraded. No one asks to be raped. No one asks to be violated. No one asks to be taken advantage of. And with a big percentage of assault is by someone you know, you are not asking for someone to take advantage of your trust. But it’s oh, she asked for it, her clothes, her attitude, she was a tease, she didn’t say no, she didn’t fight, she regretted it in the morning and is claiming rape. And my personal favourite, she’s a slut, so everybody just assumes she took part in it willingly. The most shocking thing about Asking For It (and let’s be honest, there’s a lot of shocking things in here.) was how everyone reacted once Emma reported rape, how officials handled it, how people treated Emma, because the guys who done it were nice guys, good boys, they have status, they are going somewhere, and look at her, ruining their lives. As if they didn’t ruin hers.
It shouldn’t matter what we wear, how we walk, if we flirt, and yet it does because society tells us it does, because as women, we should know better than all of the above. It’s her fault. It’s always the woman’s fault, isn’t it? If we don’t dress in a way that cover's everything up, if we're confident in our own skin and sexuality, then we’re asking for it. And because it’s our fault, we’re getting taught how to not get raped.
Asking For It delves into the likes of consent, because Emma didn’t say no. But, before the gang rape, Emma was drunk and she had sex with a guy and she didn’t say no. She didn’t say yes, either, she wasn’t in any state to say or do anything. And then what happened, happened and she didn’t even remember what had happened. But she didn’t say no. She was drunk. She took drugs. She was so out of it that she blacked out and remembered zilch. In that state, she was unable to consent, and not saying no is obviously consent, right? And it’s all her fault, right?
Asking For It also delves into the role social/media plays in rape culture and victim blaming. Images taken during that rape, and posted on social media, shared, commented on, over and over, without a trigger warning, how that effects the victim and their family, and like with Emma, how those images, if taken to court (or if they’re taken at all) and your sexual history can be used against you. A rapist is innocent until proven guilty, and as the victim, you have to prove you’re telling the truth.
Asking For It is thought-provoking and it’ll make you question not only your own stance on rape, but the way rape is perceived in different countries, and what you would do in Emma’s position because rape is rape, whether you remember it or not, there’s no justifying it.
Every once in a while a book comes along that gives you all the feelings. Makes you love It and makes you hate it, makes you cry and makes you angry, makes you think and makes you sad, it’s important because the ending is horribly realistic, it's the most important book you'll read this year, and Asking For It, is that book. It is raw and it is honest and it is blunt and it makes me want to scream.