Hellooo, I’m back! I have officially submitted my essays and am now a free elf. I haven’t even looked at WordPress in weeks, so I will do some serious blog hopping soon – but first, I have some reviewing to do! I feel kinda rusty, so we’ll see how this goes.
Asking for It follows Emma O’Donovan, the most popular girl at school. She has her circle of attractive friends and everyone is in love with her – until she is drugged and sexually assaulted at a party, with pictures of the event all over the internet. The novel deals with victim-blaming and self-blaming, mental health, social media, and sexism, and all of it is done brilliantly.
My first experience reading Louise O’Neill was in 2015, when I read Only Ever Yours, and I still think about that book all the damn time. O’Neill is a fantastic writer, building up tension in the most subtle ways and writing amazing unlikable characters. Just like the girl in Only Ever Yours, Emma is mean, self-absorbed, and consumed by jealousy. She plays along with the system without realising how much it’s hurting her. O’Neill’s books offer a wonderfully dark portrayal of toxic friendship, girl hate and the good old ‘you’re not like other girls’. If you’re looking for supportive friends who love each other, you are in the wrong place.
Nothing about this book is happy and bubbly. The families of all the girls are a disaster, parents dealing with things the wrong way and making everything about themselves when they should be helping their children; the friendship we get to see is fake to its core, based on popularity and who gets tagged in the most pictures; even the people who seem nice end up being a part of the problem. And of course there’s the whole ‘asking for it’ business – it seems obvious that no one is ever ‘asking for it’, but Emma is such an unlikable character that sometimes it just seems like most of her problems are her own fault, and it becomes difficult to sympathize with her.
What’s really interesting is seeing how O’Neill applies similar ideas to this novel as she did to Only Ever Yours, and somehow makes them work in a completely different setting. Only Ever Yours is a dystopian story about a world where women are produced artificially to basically make babies and please men, a very different concept, but the issues are the same: it all boils down to who is the most willing to make life easy for the guys.
My favourite thing about this novel is how the writing reflects the changes in Emma’s mental state. The deeper she sinks, the worse everything gets for her, the more overwhelmed she appears. Her thoughts become confused, with random memories appearing in brackets all over the place, interrupting normal activities. She keeps blaming herself, feeling like she made a fuss about nothing and ended up ruining the boys’ lives. By the end of the novel, she has become her trauma. If you know Louise O’Neill, you know she doesn’t do happy endings.
That didn’t go half bad, did it? Considering I haven’t blogged in, uh, almost a month. I hope you enjoyed this review and maybe consider picking up Asking for It. It’s not a light read, but it’s absolutely worth it.
‘Till next time and happy reading!