A City Girl Review: Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

A book you should be reading….


In Asking For It, Louise O’Neill explores a topic that most people would rather not talk about. She brilliantly portrays a young girl who has been raped and the subsequent psychological trauma she’s forced to endure. O’Neill has us confront the reality of sexual assault, victim blaming, and consent, and what it is like to go through these things as a victim. She also touches on generational differences, the impact of social media on society and modern perceptions of women.  

O’Neill, from West Cork, Ireland, is an Irish novelist who is no stranger to diving into controversial social issues in her writing. Her first novel Only Ever Yours is a dystopian story in which girls are bred to please men. Asking For It focuses on 18 year old Emma O’Donovan, an unlikeable young woman who craves attention and isn’t nice to her friends. She flirts with all the boys, even her friend’s boyfriend. Emma goes to a party and  wakes with no idea what happened but feels uneasy. Then photographs start to surface of her and it comes clear of what happen. She was raped by a group of boys. Instead of being seen as the victim she is called a liar, slut, a girl who asked for it.  

  I first came across O’Neill’s book while at graduate school in Ireland. My friends were talking about a novel they had to read for class called Asking for It. As they told me about it I thought about how a book about such a sensitive topic would never have been assigned in a class in the states. A few months later, I finally picked it up the book and wasn’t ready for what was about to come.  

The book progresses through Emma’s life before and after she’s raped and we learn her thoughts and experiences what she is going through and how the assault affects her physically and emotionally. We come to understand what Emma is going through; she feels,​“My body is not my own any more. They have stamped their names all over it.”   

Emma’s story is hard to read but its one you need to read.

 O’Neill did extant research on Asking For It to make sure the story she was writing was real one. And it is very real, sexual assault, rape and the culture that enables it is real. And it is something every culture needs to address.  O’Neill continues to speak out about the topics she explores in Asking For It. She wrote a documentary, Asking For It?: Reality Bites, which aired on RTE2 on November 1, 2016. Asking For It has been placed on many best-selling lists and was the Irish Times Book of the Month in September 2015; The American Library Association awarded it a Michael L. Printz Honor for excellence in literature written for young adults and it is included on many college must reads.  

Even though the book takes place in Ireland, its themes are universal. It is critical that we open up dialogue about what factors contribute to rape culture,causes sexual assault and what can be done to change it from happening. We need to talk about rape and consent and affirm that women are treated better as victims of sexual assaults. We need to understand how rape affects an individual’s physical and emotional well being. We need to recognize and attempt to understand the conflicts that will arise within friendships and families.  And this novel does just that.  We need more books like Asking For It.

I actually got to meet Louise during my placement it was such a real experience. She informed me on so much with advise and you can see her passion and drive. Also met Lisa McInerney (pictured below). I was so nervous and excited about my internship especially when the Tuesday would come and fiction writers would come! 13653187_10154230644803463_8092185432130690256_o