Could a novel, aimed at teenagers, actually save a life? ‘Asking For It’ by Louise O’Neill might be one that could.
Am I exaggerating? Am I guilty of a post heading that is basically clickbait? I don’t think so. Louise O’Neill’s first book ‘Only Ever Yours’ was dark but ‘Asking For It’, is stark, uncompromising, challenging and will leave you angry with one, some, or even all of the various characters.
I’ve written previously about young adult books that explore important issues and that I felt moved to recommend to as many people as I could. This is another one of those books. If you’re looking for light and fluffy reading material, Louise O’Neill is not the author for you. If you want your attitudes challenged, if you want something that charges your emotions, then go track down her books.
In Asking For It, we meet Emma. She really isn’t that nice a person. She’s jealous of her friends, beautiful but vain, popular but horrible (even to her friends), generally she’s a bit of a mean girl. She lives in an Irish town that could be anywhere. She goes to a party, she gets drunk, she takes ‘something’, and while its all happening you are shouting in your head (or out loud) at the pages, warning her, berating her, hating the fellas, begging her friends to intercede. Its uncomfortable to read. You know what’s coming.
Thankfully this novel isn’t about the graphic horror of rape, but does explore what the author terms, ‘rape culture’. Its about culpability. Its about consent or its absence. It is about a lot of things, victim blaming, effects on family, shame, attitudes to drink and drugs, young men’s attitudes to women, young women’s attitudes to each other, slut-shaming, small town attitudes, social judgement, the impact of social media, how mainstream media, talk shows, radio phone-in shows cover similar incidences. Its about the speculation and discussion around ‘Whose fault it is!’ Its about sexual assault getting reported, or not getting reported and what happens or doesn’t happen as a result.
I suggested this book might save a life. How? This story is all too real, all too possible. Young people reading it will recognise characters and situations AND their reactions and consequences. #SlaneGirl anyone? My hope by recommending this book be read, is that it might make someone pause. They might recognise their own actions on the pages of this book. Hopefully that person will see their actions as either repulsive or risky and just think some more about how they are in that situation.
I don’t know the stats regarding rape and suicide in Ireland, but I’m guessing they don’t make great reading. This novel might save a life one day.
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