Asking for It : A Librarian’s Perspective Review

That front cover just says it all, doesn't it?

Asking for It by Louise O’Neill has been on my TBR for awhile now. I’ve heard lots of talk about it, and that front cover just says it all, doesn’t it? While it was a good read and mostly engrossing, it’s not a “feel good” type of story. It’s not a romance, and you are not going to swoon over cute boys giving the narrator their hearts. I can’t recall even one funny moment.

Despite all this, I still consider it one of the most important books written for teens in the past few years. Asking for It is must in every high school library.

AUTHOR: Louise O’Neill
SERIES: none
PUBLICATION DATE: September 3, 2015
ISBN: 9781848664173
PAGES: 346
SOURCE: Brooklyn Public Library OverDrive
GENRE: realistic fiction
SETTING: Ballinatoom, Ireland, present day


Emma O’Donovan is beautiful and popular. One night at a party, Emma gets drunk and voluntarily takes a drug a boy offers her. The next morning, her parents find her semi-conscious, confused, sunburned, and without underwear, on their front porch.

Emma remembers almost nothing, but the pictures of Emma in compromising positions on an “Easy Emma” FaceBook page tell all. When Emma cries rape against four local boys, no one believes her. She dressed in a sexy dress, went to a party, got drunk, and took drugs. She already had a reputation as sexually promiscuous. Wasn’t Emma just asking for it?


Super-important book! It took awhile for me to get into it and keep track of the huge cast of characters, but by the time Emma was raped, I could hardly put it down. The book is told in two parts: the time leading up to the rape and one year after the rape.

We see two very different Emmas in the two parts of the story. Before the rape, Emma is incredibly vain and not a very nice girl. Her attitude toward sex is casual, and she does indeed dress sexy to impress the boys. I didn’t like her, and you probably won’t either.

In the year after the rape, Emma must deal with the fallout of what happened and her accusations. The boys Emma says raped her are “good” boys from affluent, influential families. Her case has sparked intense debate in newspapers and on talk shows about the nature of consent and whether Emma deserved what she got.

I didn’t really like this Emma, either, but I did feel for her. She’s a complicated character who, while unlikeable, didn’t want to be gang raped and photographed while unconscious. We don’t have to like her character to see that she definitely did not “ask for it.”

I think the characters who made me the most angry were Emma’s parents. Good lord, what is wrong with these people? They seem more concerned with what the neighbors think than with the fact that their only daughter was drugged and gang raped. I wanted to smack them both.

The story did not end the way I might have hoped, but I agree with Louise O’Neill’s Afterword that it is a realistic ending. I would love to read a sequel about Emma ten years later.

THEMES: rape, consent, feminism, suicide

THE BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended for all high schoolers. The issue of consent is so timely and important for all of us to understand.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We don’t have it, but I would definitely order it.


  • Overall: 4/5
  • Creativity: 4/5
  • Characters: 4/5
  • Engrossing: 4/5
  • Writing: 3/5 (the parenthetical notations got annoying)
  • Appeal to teens: 5/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5


  • Language: high–lots of pejorative words for females
  • Sexuality: high; rape scene plays out throughout the book
  • Violence: gang rape (Emma is unconscious for most of it)
  • Drugs/Alcohol: medium; alcoholic parent; teens drink and take drugs at parties (drinking age is 18 in Ireland)


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