Rating: 5 stars
Because we love indie books here, we don’t usually review or talk about mainstream prize-winning fiction here, but Asking For It does, I think, require speaking about.
I would just at this point say that this book deals graphically with rape, and might be upsetting to some readers. Certainly, I did not enjoy this book. It was a great book, and I was glad I read it, but I did not enjoy it. This isn’t a curl-up-by-the-fire book, this is an I-can’t-stop-reading-but-this-is-horrific book.
Loosely modelled on the Steubenville rape case, but set in Ireland, Asking For It tells the story of shallow, insecure, bitchy, selfish, vain Emma. Emma loves male attention. Emma constantly needs to belittle her friends to feel better about herself. Emma is gorgeous and she knows it. I’m pretty sure we are not meant to like Emma. I didn’t like Emma, but that didn’t matter.
So, what happens to Emma forces us to confront the question: what do we do when we don’t like the victim? How do we feel when a drunk, drugged up girl who’s shallow and unkind suffers something awful?
O’Neill’s book is a horrifying, unflinching portrayal of rape culture, sexual assault, and their after-effects in a tight-knit community. It’s searing and merciless and harsh. I couldn’t stop reading. It’s not for the faint-hearted but it does incredible work challenging our idea of what a victim is or should be. At no point did I feel that Emma deserved any of what she got, or that her suffering wasn’t valid because she wasn’t a ‘nice’ person – this journey inside that world really underlines that. It’s incredible stuff – just go in prepared.
Reviewed by Louise