Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

28 March 2016

Book Review: Asking for It by Louise O'Neill

CW: This book deals with the aftermath of a sexual assault from the survivor's point of view.

I'm not going to beat around the bush, Asking for It by Louise O'Neill is intense.

O'Neill artfully writes from inside the head of a rape survivor from days before the assault to a few years post. Emma O' Donovan, our protagonist, is not an outspoken feminist activist and for the most part, refuses to even think the word 'rape.' Her life is turned upside down, not just from the rape itself, but the aftermath is almost as tragic. Within feminist circles, we often bemoan the way the mainstream media covers rape cases, but Asking for It shows how feminist sites are eager for rape survivors to tell their side of the story as their own click bait. Emma is equally haunted by op-eds that state she is making it all up as well as the flood of requests from feminist sites and the trending supportive hashtags.


I don't want to be their champion.
I don't want to be brave.
I don't want to be a hero.

As a YA book, the target audience is the high school and up crowd. I highly recommend this book for everyone who is a parent. And not because I think it will help you prevent the sexual assault of anyone, but because as a parent, the way Emma sees her parents post-assault is heartbreaking. As a parent, you may be tempted to take this book as manual for how to not to trust your daughter or to protect her from the world, but I beg you to read it as a manual on how to be a supportive parent.

When did we all become fluent in this language
that none of us wanted to learn?

Asking for It presents the reader with a very imperfect victim. Emma is not a virgin, while she is still in high school she is 18 and is the quintessential party girl. She is everything that makes up the idea that someone "asks for it." And yet, throughout the book, if you are willing to be open to the idea, you are rooting for Emma to regain her life, triumph over the slut-shaming she endures and watch as her rapists are locked away. I won't spoil the book and say if any of this happens. In light of the recent Ghomeshi trial verdict and how the judge accused the survivors of not acting properly, this book is timely. Emma is not only not the ideal victim due to her sexual past, but she does not play the ideal victim afterwards. 

So many things make this an excellent read. O'Neill sets up Emma as a spoiled party girl, who even commits the sin of slut-shaming herself. In an early scene, she even talks down one of her girlfriend's date rape. She plots about how to bag the next of her trophies. She is beautiful and wields that beauty as a weapon. Knowing that she will be the victim of a rape makes you question all the dislike O'Neill sets up. As a feminist who knows all the tropes and stereotypes that we must fight to end rape culture, I still caught myself thinking all the things: "Don't keep drinking!" "Don't go in there!" Asking for It is a horror flick and you keep yelling at the book hoping to change the ending, but you know it is all for naught.

There were definitely places in the book where I could not stop reading as well as places where I needed to walk away from the book for a bit. This book should not be an after school special warning for young women as to the dangers of excessive partying. Rather this book is a wake-up to those of us who want to support survivors or who are forced to support survivors. Seriously, her parents do this all wrong or at least Emma thinks they do. This book exemplifies why some survivors do nothing but "go on" with their lives. This book will stay with you long after you finish.

Asking for It goes on sale April 5th. Please purchase your own copy of Asking for It from Powells or Indiebound and support Viva la Feminista.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from a publicist.   


 I have three copies to giveway!


  1. To enter, simply comment with your email address. Seriously, without an email, I can't get a hold of you.
  2. Extra entries awarded if you share this review on Twitter (tag me @veronicaeye) or Facebook (tag me @vivalafeminista).
  3. Once all entries are in, I will number the entries, toss into Random.org and that magical machine will select a winner.
  4. This giveaway is limited to shipping addresses in the USA and sorry no PO Boxes.  
DEADLINE: Thursday, April 7, 2016 at 10 PM Central Time. 


This comment has been removed by the author.

Sounds like a book I need to read.


The cover and title hooked me, and your review convinced me - totally need to read it!



Finished Kate Harding's Asking for it recently. Ready for more!

I totally want to read this book and my bank account wants me to win a copy. Namastecool33@gmail.com

Yes, please. I'm entering but will give my copy to LPeacock@hawc.org who works with the non-offending parents of girls who have been sexually abused. Good luck to us, Lucy! LManzano@hawc.org

I would love a chance to have an opportunity to win! kjcfalcon at gmail dot com.

Thanks for this great review, it could serve as a great discussion in a class setting, or for feminist book club! Thanks for giving us an opportunity to win one.

Great review! My email is yaundermyskin@gmail.com

Oops sorry- just realised this is USA only. Please discount my entry.

Looks like an important read for me and my colleagues. - ediazdeleon@taasa.org

La Kandace wins! Random.org pulled #8 out of 13 entries. Congrats!

Oops! Forgot that I get to give out 3 copies! Congrats to #5 and #13, niamhlehan & Emiliano!!

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