Asking for it cover

Review: Asking for It by Louise O’Neill

Tw: Rape, sexual assault, violence.

Asking for it was the kind of book that sank deep into my bones, leaving an imprint I’m not sure will ever go away.


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…

Asking for it cover


Emma is 18, she is beautiful, she knows how to command attention. She lives for the words others give to her, “perfect”, “could be a model”, “lucky”.

But then she is raped. When she comes forward her town, and even her family turn on her. She is branded a slut, a liar, the kind of person who ruins lives. And the boys who committed the crime are viewed as the victims.

Her family tolerate her, but it’s clear that even her parents don’t really believe her. She has turned their perfect lives upside-down and she knows they blame her for it. Even Emma questions whether it’s her fault, maybe if she hadn’t been drinking, hadn’t worn that dress, wasn’t so beautiful.

There are thousands of Emma’s. Some try and come forwards, others know they won’t be believed, some survive and others don’t.

This was a disturbing but incredibly realistic depiction of our society and the way we treat people who come forward after being sexually assaulted. We need to stop, we need to do better because girls are being harmed, girls are blaming themselves and they are dying because we are not taking them seriously.

I’m not sure if Asking for it is the kind of book you can like. It is important and terrifying and so very real. All I can hope is that people will read it and understand how wrong we are as a society, how our denial and unwillingness to confront what’s going on is literally killing our girls.

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