Second novel by the West Cork author Louise O’ Neill had the whole country talking. From its intense social media presence to the rave reviews both in traditional print and online forums it was a must read from its release.
I will admit, I don’t read as much as I used to (something I am currently trying to correct) and I was a little late to the party in buying Asking For It. But, boy am I glad that I finally jumped on the bandwagon. I haven’t devoured a book so quickly since I defied my lights out at bedtime and read Harry Potter with a torch under the covers.
Asking For It addresses some very complex and dark issues, highlighting problems within Irish society that are far too often overlooked. Main character Emma O’Donovan is eighteen, living in a small Irish town and one of the popular girls. She’s confident, beautiful and happy. She is also selfish, self-centred and vain.
She was a hard character to warm to but once I started to get to know the reasons behind her meanness I was transported back to school and my teenage days. A place where everyone is self-conscious and scared and trying to cover it up with bravado. The problem begins when the bravado is mistaken for something more which it so often is.
This book hits home in more ways than one. We have grown up in a society that teaches our young people that it is the victim that is is the one to blame. Too often young girls (and before the comments start, men are often victims too but not in this book) blame themselves for what happens to them on dates or nights out.
“I shouldn’t have worn that dress”, “I shouldn’t have drank that much”, “I should have said, no one more time”, “Maybe, he didn’t hear me”. These are thoughts that far too many people have had and it’s ridiculous. Everyone needs to take responsibility for their actions.
Rape culture is all too familiar in this country and many others. In these kinds of situations rather than the perpetrator being innocent until proven guilty, it is up to the victim that is guilty until proven innocent.
And that is what this book is about. Not so much the law but the emotional turmoil that Emma goes through and how she is treated by her peers. Every teenager and person in their early-twenties should read this. And even older, I’m in my mid-twenties and loved it.
Louise’s writing is impeccable and easy to read. This is a powerful book and I’m glad to see that she is getting the acclaim that she so richly deserves. She is addresses some tough topics and has gotten some backlash but thankfully the praise and support is what shines through. These issues need to be talked about and Louise is a big voice in the discussion.
I’m well and truly a fan.