Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Asking For It by Louise O'Neill

The issues raised in this book are so important and yet widely played down in today’s society, and so I think this could be one of the most significant books of the year and for a while to come. 

It’s the start of summer in a small Irish town, and teenager Emma seems to have it all. She’s beautiful; all the boys want her and her clique of friends follow everything she says. 

One night a big party is held and Emma is getting plenty of attention. The next morning she wakes up on the front porch of her house with little recollection of the night before, of how she got home or why she is in pain. 

However what she doesn't remember soon comes back to her in the form of explicit photographs taken of her at the party, and the consequences of that night change her life and those involved forever. 

I’m not one for controversial debates, but this is a subject matter that I feel incredibly strongly about, although I will try and make this post more book review than rant! Sexual assault (which can range from unwanted touching to rape) is something not commonly explored in mainstream literature and is a brave subject topic for any author to tackle. Louise O’Neill sets up a simple yet effective storyline in which to explore this topic and I believe that sadly many people will have shared some of Emma’s experiences at some point in their lives. 

Emma is not a particularly likeable character; she’s arrogant and at times quite selfish but that doesn’t mean that she deserves what happens to her, which is often a term that can get thrown around in such cases. “She wore a short skirt, so she deserved it” or “She was asking for it.” With the sexual assault theme, also comes the topic of consent. If someone is intoxicated for example, then are they in a position to give consent to sexual activity? 

As well as exploring these ideas with Emma, the story also shows how Emma’s situation affects her family which was probably the most heartbreaking bit for me. Reading this book sends you through a riot of emotions; anger, denial, sadness – which may sound quite negative but this is such a significant and attention-grabbing story that will really get you thinking about what you are reading. 

A story like this is so relevant in our current climate of “slut-shaming” and the power of social media where rumours and offensive material can be shared quicker than ever. Asking For It is a powerful, provocative and significant novel that should be on everybody’s reading list. 

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