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Thursday, 10 March 2016

Asking For It by Louise O'Neill

Title: Asking For It
Author: Louise O'Neill
Genre: YA Contemporary (New Adult IMO)
Length: 344 Pages
Published: 3rd September 2015
 
I have to admit that I went into this book feeling a little nervous. Only Ever Yours had left me an insecure, sobbing, anxious wreck and I wasn't sure what emotional damage Asking For It was going to cause. As it turned out, it was a very difficult read. Especially the second half of the book, which begins one year after That Night. But before we get to that, let's go back to the beginning.

Our main character is Emma. She's beautiful, she's popular, she's confident on the outside but painfully insecure on the inside. She's bitchy, petty and belittles her friends in order to boost her own ego. She enjoys male attention and encourages it. On the whole, a particularly difficult character to like. But despite this, I found that I couldn't hate her. I pitied her. Admist all of the cruel comments she makes about her friends (both in her dialogue and her own thoughts) insecurity is littered. She thinks frequently about how much richer her friends are than her, and how clever her friend Jamie is. She is incredibly jealous and desperate to be the centre of attention.
 
One night, Emma and her friends go to a party. She's dolled up, is wearing a very revealing dress and has already consumed a lot of alcohol before even leaving her house. She drinks more at the party, and also takes a drug. After this, the chain of horrific events string together quite quickly - Emma sleeps with a guy, is then interrupted afterwards by another few guys, they take more drugs and her consciousness fades.
 
Emma can't remember anything about the night before the next day. But there are dozens of Facebook photos showing in explicit detail what those boys did to her after she became unconscious. There are hundred of cruel, disgusting, hateful comments from people she believed to be her friends, from people she'd grown up with. I'm going to issue a huge trigger warning for this section of the book: the details of the photos taken of Emma make me feel physically sick. I could barely bring myself to continue reading.
Fast-forward a year and Emma is nothing like the person she was at the beginning of the book. I don't think I've ever read such sad, intense character development before. She's still the talk of the town, but in a very different way than before. She's pressing charges against the boys who raped her. I don't want to give any details away but I'm sure you can guess what people think of her and her allegations. It's painfully realistic in a way that makes me want to cry.
 
Emma's situation is very eye-opening and thought-provoking. We live in a society where girls are told "don't get raped" instead of boys being told "don't rape". The phrase "she was asking for it" is mentioned frequently and it really highlights all that is wrong with the way rape victims are treated. Yes, she was drunk. Yes, she was wearing revealing clothes. Yes, she slept with the man minutes before the rape happened. But why does that mean she was asking for it? It brought up a lot of questions for me personally and I feel like after reading this book I'm more confident in the answers.
 
The writing style of this book is very dark, clipped and intense. It did take me a while to get used to it, because Emma has a tendency to skip between the past and the present moment quite frequently. Some of Emma's thoughts are very repetitive and burst into her mind when she's doing something as normal as pouring cereal. She's truly haunted by what happened to her and it's written in such a clever, heart-breaking way.
 
Overall this is a very intense and important read. I think I also used those words to describe Only Ever Yours, but they're so applicable to Louise O'Neill's writing. I didn't find Asking For It quite as difficult to read as Only Ever Yours, but I think that is because the themes and characters in OEY are things I could personally connect with. However I am still going to issue a huge trigger warning for this book: aside from the rape, there are also frequent references to suicide and Emma experiences depression and several panic attacks.
 
I've decided to award this book 4.5/5 stars.
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If you liked Asking For It, I'd recommend Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill and Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson.
 
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Websites & Phone Numbers that offer advice and support on the issues tackled in this book, including Anxiety, Rape and Depression:
Samaritans: offers confidential and non-judgemental support 24/7 via their phonelines, available to residents of the UK. Helpline: 0845 790 9090. Website: www.samaritans.org
Rape Crisis: offers support and information regarding everything to do with rape. Also offers information regarding Rape Crisis centres in England and Wales. Website: www.rapecrisis.org.uk
Mind: offers support and information to anyone with any mental health problem, including anxiety, depression, bulimia and anorexia. www.mind.org.uk 

6 comments:

  1. Wow this book sounds intense! Thanks for the review, I just might go pick it up.

    Renee | Lose The Road

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  2. I bought this book off Amazon yesterday and it arrived today. I'm equal parts excited and scared to read it, as it doesn't sound like an easy read! x www.aimeeraindropwrites.co.uk x

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  3. This book has been on my to read list for ages. I remember your review of OEY and I agree that it is a hard read but I think the subjects that Louise O'Neill writes about are such important ones to highlight. I recently bought another book featuring rape (all the rage) so it will be interesting to compare writing styles. =^-^=

    Sam | Momentarily Dreaming

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  4. This sounds like such a sad but interesting and relevant read. Great review! xx
    www.chasingbelle23.blogspot.co.uk

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  5. This is such a good review! I had a similar reaction to you - I felt sick reading Asking For It. Mostly because it's fiction, but it is so reflective of society and I find that terrifying. I kinda feel like it's a book everyone needs to read (if they can - I can understand why it would be triggering for people) xx

    Toasty

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  6. This book sounds really interesting! I heard Hannah witton and Lucy moon talking about it in their banging book club and it made me want to read it then now reading your review I want to read it even more x

    Thrifty vintage fashion

    ReplyDelete

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