Book Review

Asking For It: A Book Review

Written by guest blogger Mary Noble. Follow her on Instagram @motherofreaders

TRIGGER WARNING: Content addresses sexual assault and sensitive subject matter.

There are books that have been written to alter your perception of the world. These books are not hard to find, often sitting in plain sight, a pretty cover deterring from your ability to recognize them at first glance. These books are frequently inspired by true events. Throughout every 24 Hour News Cycle, we become blind to any lingering good in the world.

These books are fiction but contain a plethora of truth. The hard truth captivates readers. The best books will change you. Although it is back on the shelf or at the library, it finds its way back into your thoughts. The story will haunt you. These books have challenging content, and are frequently banned.

However, they are irresistibly relevant.

A remarkable example of these alluring tales is Asking For It, by Louise O’Neill. Asking For It tells the story of Emma O’Donovan, a seemingly happy, confident, and beautiful young woman. The world is at her fingertips until she sexually assaulted in her small town in Ireland.

The aftermath of her attack slowly chronicles as Emma begins to recollect. The torment she endures while seeking justice is actually more shocking to her than the assault. Torment from not only strangers but her friends and family as well.

During this time, Emma became victimized all over again.

She was torn between those closest to her and her community. Emma’s supporters are enraged by her tormenters. While the community accuses her of slandering town heroes.

Once the story starts reeling you in, it begins to unravel.

Reader’s initial impression of Emma is quite wrong. The happy girl everyone thought she was, never existed.

Readers aren’t meant to like Emma. Louise O’Neill did not intend for the protagonist to be an angel. Should that change ones perception? Should it be more difficult to empathize with her?

The traumatizing events taking place in Asking For It are based on the real life events of an actual crime that occurred in America.

The author does not depict an innocent victim. Instead, readers are given a troubled and flawed young woman. Emma feels so real at times that it does not feel like fiction. Victim blaming is flawlessly dissected in this work, showing first hand what happens to atypical victims.

When the accusee is more valued than the accuser, can the victim get justice?

Reading books with challenging content, including rape and abuse, is a pursuit for readers who are curious about these topics. Stories like this appear in the news. However, they are often portrayed as a he-said-she-said. For example, maybe her clothing, behavior, or drinking is the reason this happened. What did she expect?

Books that cause these questions to disappear will never leave you. When a story is presented in its entirety, it becomes more relatable. Because these stories hit so close to home, empathy is easier to find. After reading Asking For It, Emma will become more than a character. She could be your neighbor, a girl you knew in grade school, or someone you know through gossip.

If you knew Emma, would you have distanced yourself or blamed her?

Emma has a lot in common with all of us. She often makes bad decisions, is preoccupied with boys, and jealous of her closest friends. In many ways, she is an average eighteen-year-old.

The fact that Emma is portrayed as negative teaches a much-needed lesson. Victims do not need to be well liked to deserve justice. Louise O’Neill’s book is a blessing in disguise. Asking For It is the book society has been lacking.

This book is meant to be endured rather than passively read. Emma’s story is difficult to get through. Although her story, inspired by real victims, very much deserves your time. The story in Asking For It is not often depicted in fiction and will inspire a relenting visceral rage.

Readers will realize that Louise O’Neill is genuinely expecting an answer to the question. Was she asking for it? Is anyone asking for it?

The ending is anything but surprising. Emma could be any of us.

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