"They are all innocent until proven guilty. Not me, I am a liar until I am proven honest."
No one will read Asking For It and write that it was an enjoyable, fun read. Asking For It is one of the hardest books I've read, just like Only Ever Yours was, and that's why it's so important. It makes you aware of all the prejudices you have about certain things and confronts you in an uncomfortably direct way - the only way to really make you see that we are all part of a rape culture and that we all have to change to make that stop.
It's the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O'Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there's a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma.
The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can't remember what happened, she doesn't know how she got there. She doesn't know why she's in pain. But everyone else does.
Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don't want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town's heroes...
How do you review a book like this? I think the danger here is to praise it just for the message, and though I think the message is so amazing and important, a book must be more than an informercial; it has to captivate a reader, make you care for the characters and really transport you to another world.
Thankfully, it's Louise O'Neill who wrote this book and who can so easily do all of these things. Emma is by no means a likeable character (she's truly a bitch at times), but we come to care about her even though we see all her flaws. By choosing a bitchy main character, Louise O'Neill is risking losing readers, but she writes Emma so well that I just can't see that happening for anyone. Yes, she's not nice, but 1. you understand why, 2. that's just the way some people are and that's more than fine and 3. it shows that rape is NEVER okay, even when it happens to a girl who is not a disney princess.
The other thing I loved about this book is how well-rounded the other characters are. It is the story of Emma and obviously the focus is on her, but all her friends are also really intriguing and as a reader, you see how they develop and grow as they go through this with Emma - or decide not to go through this with her. They all come across so realistically, which makes the story even more gripping.
This could have been me. That's the one thing I kept thinking while reading the book. Not just because the main character is also called Emma (which sometimes made it even more confrontational), but because I was just like her as a teenager. I had friends just like her. I know guys just like the guys in the book. I know that world and I know I would have ended up the same way as she did if I was less lucky.
And that's all it is: we live in a rape culture where some girls get lucky and don't get violated, and some girls, like Emma, do. So even though a book is so much more than its message, and trust me, this book is, the message is still so important here and just for that, everyone should read it - however uncomfortable and painful that might be.