Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not the sort of book you pick up to read thinking: “I’ll enjoy this”. It’s the sort of book you think: “I need to read this. It’s important that I read this.” Honestly, it was really tough to read and it needed to be, but that does make it hard to review. The protagonist, Emma, isn’t particularly nice and I never warmed to her, but I think that’s the point. That’s why this book is so brilliant, because it would have been easy for Louise O’Neill to have written Emma differently; to have made her more likeable, more sympathetic, a more traditional “victim”. The fact that she’s mean and selfish, manipulative and conceited, it makes everything more ambiguous. I was constantly questioning myself, my own perceptions and judgements about her lifestyle and even my ability to be sympathetic (though I was sympathetic, don’t get me wrong). The book is split into two parts, the build up and initial reaction and then the impact one year later. I think what struck me was the difference between these two parts. The first is quite a straightforward narrative, but the second part is much harder to follow. There is a lot repetition, lots of flashbacks to what happened a year earlier. Emma’s thoughts focus a lot on the lives that she’s supposedly ruined but the reader is made very aware of the impact of the trauma she’s been through. The ending is bleak, which sadly felt very realistic. The little bit of hopefulness I took away from this book was the characters of Connor and Bryan, who were determined in their belief in Emma, even when everyone else had given up (Emma included.)

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