To Read or Not to Read?

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

Trigger warning for this book and for mentions in the review: rape.

My personal warning: this review is likely going to be a little bit all over the place because the topic gets me fired up.

This book was a hard one to take in which I expected given the premise. Asking For It by O’Neill is about Emma O’Donovan, an eighteen year old girl from Ireland. She’s a beautiful, snobby girl who likes to party but then, one night, the partying goes too far. Her parents find her sprawled out on their porch the next morning. Upon waking Emma doesn’t remember all of what happened the night before but her parents note that she’s missing her underwear. And then the pictures surface on the internet and the story starts to unfold.

So obviously I went in knowing that the book was going to deal with rape. And it touched on all of the topics that seem to pop up in real-life cases of that nature. Questions that shouldn’t have to be asked. Questions of sexual history, questions of what the victim was wearing, drinking or taking the night of the assault. (I’m sorry but no, even if a woman has slept with quite a few men before that doesn’t mean that a rape can’t happen. If a woman wears revealing clothes and drinks to the point of blacking out that doesn’t give a man a right to rape her.)

Plus, there’s the issue that the boys involved are good at athletics and their parents are upstanding members of the community so even though there are pictures no wants to believe that they would do such a thing. And, worst of all, the feelings of the community and, thanks to social media the feelings of the entire world, has Emma questioning herself. Even though she’s the victim people are making her feel like she’s doing something wrong by saying she was assaulted.

Even worse, initially she didn’t even want to press charges because she knew it would cause trouble. The fact that she felt that way was just saddening because I know it happens all the time. People don’t want to press charges because even if there’s proof the case doesn’t always go the way it should which really says something about the society we’ve created.

Reading this book had me so angry at times, even more so because I know it happens in real life. There can be proof that an assault happens and there are people that want to put all of the blame on the victim. “Well, what were they wearing?” “They shouldn’t have been drinking or taking drugs.” “This will ruin the accused lives.” It’s just awful and while it wasn’t pleasant to read about I think we need to have fiction books about these topics because we need to talk about these things.

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