Friday, April 8, 2016

Asking For It by Louise O'Neill

Asking For It by Louise O'Neill
Release Date - April 5, 2016
Publisher Website -  Hachette Canada (Quercus)
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 336 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received from publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Emma O’Donovan is eighteen, beautiful, and fearless. It’s the beginning of summer in a quiet Irish town and tonight she and her friends have dressed to impress. Everyone is at the big party, but all eyes are on Emma.

The next morning Emma’s parents discover her in a heap on the doorstop of their home, unconscious. She is disheveled, bleeding, and disoriented, looking as if she had been dumped there in a hurry. She remembers nothing from the party.

That day several devastating photos from the party are posted online and go viral, eventually launching a criminal investigation and sending the community into tumult. The media descends, neighbors chose sides, and people from all over the world want to talk about her story. Everyone has something to say about Emma, whose life has been changed forever by an unthinkable and all-too-common act of sexual violence, but all she wants is to disappear. 
'She has no face. She is just a body, a life-size doll to play with. She is an It. She is a thing.'

With those haunting words Louise O'Neill's Asking For It jumped onto my fave list, and made Louise a must read author for me. This is a story of a girl who goes through one of the most horrific violations, and is made into a victim again and again with people's words, actions, and stares. This is an examination of a society that perpetuates rape culture simply by assuming the victim did something to bring this on themselves, 

Louise O'Neill's writing is razor sharp. It's unflinching, uncomfortable, and it demands you pay attention. Her writing made me feel nauseous as Emma horrifically discovers photographic proof of what happened to her. The way in which Louise is able to invoke the feeling of being used, of being erased is stomach twisting. She captures the feeling of being turned into an object, instead of a human, with crystal clarity. That line I used in the opening of my review is exactly the feeling the reader is left with after finding out the details of what happened to Emma. Her abusers turned her into an object because they stole her voice. They stole her agency, and right to make her own choices. They took something from her, and the saddest part is that they didn't even realize it. Consent is still something that seems to mystify people and that is something this book demands we talk about and educate people on.

Everyone judges Emma. Family, friends and perfect strangers alike. She becomes THAT girl. The girl who drank too much. The girl who was too wild. The girl who was promiscuous.The girl that is beautiful and therefore what could she expect. She became the girl who did something she regretted and was ruining these young men's futures because of it. After all these are 'good lads' and 'things just got out of control'. It's rage inducing because it's entirely realistic. This IS someone's experience and that makes this story all the more crushing. The most heart shattering is part is the comments that slip out from her family. On the surface they support her but there are moments where they let words like why, how could you, what were you thinking slip past. We're a society that tells women they must be vigilant and not put themselves into situations where they could be raped instead of telling men not to rape.

The impact this event has on Emma is life altering. We see has she changes from a bubbly, outgoing young woman to a shell of herself. She goes from feeling confident to feeling like nothing more than a piece of skin. She is asked once, after the attack, how connected she feels to her body. Her response is to draw herself as far away from her body as she can. She feels like nothing more than a body to be used. Even the news reports, who cannot use her name for legal reasons, continue this feeling of being an object by referring to her as simply 'Ballinatoom Girl'. We see the impact these changes in her, and the public reaction have on her family. 

Louise uses a girl like Emma to hammer home her point. Emma is a lot of things, and not all of them are good qualities. She is not always a good friend. She makes mistakes. She does things that some people would judge her for. She likes attention from boys. The entire point of the novel is getting the reader to the point where they see what happened is not Emma's fault. That she wasn't asking for it. If this novel makes one person look at consent, and victims of sexual assault differently it would have done what it set out to do.

This novel heartbreakingly details why a victim would not come forward or why a victim would withdraw their statement. It all too realistically details how society not only doesn't support these victims, but instead makes them feel culpable. Be a good girl. Why were you wearing that? Why did you drink so much? This novel demands that we do better for the Emma's of the world, and challenges us to follow through on this demand.

"They are all innocent until proven guilty. Not me, I am a liar until I am proven honest."

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