Book Review: Asking For It by Louise O’Neill 7 years ago

Book Review: Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

It’s summer time in small town Ireland and 18-year-old Emma O’Donovan is young and popular, albeit slightly hostile.

She’s the object of affection for half the town and revels in delight at the stares of the opposite sex. She is, by most accounts, Cork’s answer to Regina George.


One night there’s a party and fuelled by boredom, lust and carelessness, Emma consumes copious amounts of drugs and alcohol. She wakes on her porch the next day with no memories of the previous night.


However, graphic photos taken at the party quickly illustrate what happened in devastating detail. The pictures are shared online and before long, Emma becomes the subject of a national debate about consent and seduction.

Asking for It is a captivating look at rape culture in the digital age. It astutely poses questions about consent, responsibility and the sexuality of young women.


Louise O’Neill’s insight in this novel is astounding. Her proficiency as a writer and commentator radiates from the pages and her treatment of the topic is spot on.

Emma is not a likeable character and O’Neill leverages this to add shade to the topical grey area of young female sexuality. The novel raises the issue of non consensual sex and bodes the question of whether a drunk young drug infused girl was “asking for it”.

The novel lightly reflects true-life issues with multiple examples springing to mind. It’s enthralling to witness the series of events through the eyes of an unlikeable self-obsessed teen. Levels of sympathy towards Emma vary throughout and with fluctuating levels of blame and remorse; O’Neill’s portrayal of the issue is simply infatuating and certainly provoking.

This is an absolute must-read for any one living in the digital age.