Louise O’Neill’s electrifying debut Only Ever Yours moved readers in its portrayal of contemporary society through a slightly skewed lens.
With Asking For It, O’Neill pulls us sharply into an all-too-familiar small town in present-day Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is the 18 year old queen bee of her year, and through her eyes and mind we see her world of the popular teenager, complete with constant Facebook check-ins, selfies for Instagram and non-stop judging of each other’s clothes, look etc. Emma enjoys going out and getting the attention of the boys she wants. The usual routine is to go out, drink, drink and ‘score’ who she wants. One day after the night before, Emma wakes up with no recollection of what happened, but it soon becomes apparent through social media and wildfire gossip.
O’Neill’s subject matter throughout is absolutely on the pulse, highlighting a society where what happens to the Emmas of the world is somehow their fault, that they were drinking, wearing short skirts and so on, hence the title of the book. It must take a lot to write about such a topic, highlighting something horribly wrong in our society.
This work is fiction, but her story familiar to thousands in Ireland and abroad. O’Neill should be lauded for her persistence in writing about such a harrowing subject matter as rape culture and the apparent acceptance and/or ignorance of same, in supposedly developed and educated modern societies.
Although difficult, Asking For It is a brilliant read, and O’Neill also manages to capture a great snapshot of any small town in Ireland, and ensures the reader will be left thinking about our own culture and attitudes. Read it!