Asking for It
by Louise O'Neill
Publisher - Quercus
Release Date - September 3 2015
Buy - Amazon | Book Depository
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...
My first Louise O'Neill book... and I'm failing to put it into words. All I can really say is WOW in so many ways! No I'll try and find the words. I read this book with a friend of mine, Annalisa, we work together and she said you have to read Only Ever Yours, I haven't (yet) but I will sooner rather than later. So I thought I would read her most recent and I couldn't have picked a better book to really start off my reading relationship with Louise any better.
So before you read the review, I would like to introduce you to Annalisa. Say hi everyone, and this is our thoughts for Asking For It!
Emma (me): Grrrrrr, her parents really really frustrated me to no end. Remember I read a book for the bookclub called Something Real by Heather Demetrois, well it reminded me of that, as the main character's parents in that were certainly no better. But this novel, there was really something else to add to the frustration and anger of it all. This is realistic young adult fiction and the sensitive issues surrounding the book, well Emma certainly could have used the support of some loving parents. All they were concerned about was there reputation, and where they stand in the food chain of all their friends. They would get the pity stares and glares and they took it out on Emma. At first Bryan (Emma's brother) felt like he was heading in the direction of their parents, but the second half, I really felt a sense of gratitude and appreciation for sticking up for his sister along with voicing his thoughts to the highest volume.
Annalisa: As with many novels, my appreciation for many of the characters changed throughout the story as they developed along with the storyline. I really felt for Emma’s parents and the impact of what had happened had on their lives, but I would hope that in a real life situation, any parent would support the decision of their children. Connor and Bryan were definitely the stand-out characters for me, in terms of providing a support network and trying to provide positive solutions, even if Emma wasn’t ready to accept them. The world definitely needs more Bryans and Connors!!
2. Did you find there was support and guidance for Emma when needed?
Emma (me): In the beginning after the what happened to Emma, there was very little support of guidance, the total opposite happened, she had to deal with it ALONE!!! I mean how could she do that, all her friends thought she deserved it, that she was asking for it! In the second part of the novel, we saw some progress but certainly not from the people you would think. The harsh reality of it was that no-one helped her, not even the police, it was a long process she has to go through and one not very many people appreciated her going through. Only that of her brother and the outside support of Connor, a friend, but potentially something else also. Emma will forever be haunted by this and by the fact that she couldn't do anything.
Annalisa: Half way through the story when Emma came to terms with what happened to her, there was definitely a lack of support from her parents and friends, and I found it interesting that the only 2 people who ended up helping Emma through things were both male. Her struggle was that no matter how many people were around her and attempting to offer support, this really was her own personal battle that she had to come out stronger from. Living in such a small town made it harder for Emma, as everyone knew what had happened and formed their own opinion, despite not hearing all arguments. This is something which will have an impact on Emma’s life forever, so there should have been more people providing that support network which she so desperately needed.
3. What did you think of the sensitive themes surrounding Asking for It?
Emma (me): O'Neill certainly knows how to really condense the impact of humanity in one story. A dark, unnatural side to humanity that we are really afraid to understand or even admit. It's a side to literature that people will just dismiss thinking 'do I really want to read this?' In answer to your question you definitely should. We need to know this. What really helped as well was that I went to a panel about Trigger Warning and reading novels with sensitive issues surrounding them. I found it so interesting but also so relatable that I understood the book even better. I could see from both Louise's and Emma's viewpoint more clearly.
Annalisa: Asking for It is definitely a book which needed to be written, and I’m so pleased it was O’Neill who tackled this topic head on. Many would find it difficult to deal with the issue of sexual consent in a sensitive and real manner, but O’Neill has achieved just this. Whilst it was difficult reading at times, I think it had to be in order to make it believable and really make readers see that ideas around consent need to change. The more we read and talk about these issues, the more susceptible people will be to change and think about their actions and the actions of others, especially for young people.
4. How did you find Louise O'Neill's writing style?
Emma (me): This is my first of O'Neill's writing as you know and I felt that this is a really strong and captivating start to her reading relationship with ones' self. She such a refreshing and honest and I love how she reminds me of Holly Bourne's novels too. It's more that she shows the dark side of human nature and that of the world, it's seeing how Emma's experience is realistic and how she manages and faces it. It's been a learning curve for me and one contender of realistic young adult fiction.
Annalisa: Once again, O’Neill has captivated me from start to finish. Only Ever Yours is one of my favourite reads of 2015, so this had a lot to live up to, and it definitely met my high expectations! I liked the ‘real’ setting and always tried to read this story with my feminist /human(!) hat on. I sympathised with Emma throughout and found all the other characters completely believable, and the representation of young people was spot on.
5. How did you react to the end?
Emma (me): I wish a lot things for Emma, I wish for her to be happy and for her to be happy with Connor. In a way I wish she didn't back down to her parents, so whilst my initial reaction was WHAT THE HELL? and deep frustration and confusion, if you think about it O'Neill has done is 'real' ending. In the end, Emma has a long way to go yet the end is only just the beginning of what is a long recovery. What also helped was O'Neill's Afterword (which I really appreciated), she knew what she wanted to do and I understood and knew that in the real world, this very minute we don't hear what needs to be heard. We need to face it, it's an ugly world and there's not always a happy ending. But sometimes a content one like Emma's.
Annalisa: I completely understand the lack of resolution, and actually feel it added something to the story. it mirrored real life in the sense that so many cases like Emma’s will end under similar circumstances, because victims are too scared or under too much pressure from those around them. Ending the story in this way just goes to show that we have a long way to go in terms of rape convictions, as we are not surprised by the treatment Emma’s family gave her.
Emma (me): 4