Louise O’Neill has been my favourite ‘find’ of 2015 in terms of writers. Her first novel, Only Ever Yours, should be compulsory reading for teenage girls (if ever I become leader of the world, I shall set up a box for girls- a bit like those ones Finland gives to new babies- containing things like boxsets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman. Only Ever Yours would be in there too.)
In Asking For It, O’Neill again looks at the world through a feminist lens; this time the story is about Emma, a beautiful and successful student who has a rosy future ahead of her. Except she becomes the victim of a hideous sexual attack, which is shared on social media. Emma becomes a recluse as her small Irish town- and beyond- deals with the aftermath of what happened to her.
This was not an easy read, but it was a powerful one. There were echoes of famous American cases of the last couple of years- O’Neill is skillful at incorporating social media and its global impact in her stories and I would argue that she is one of the most accomplished writers at doing this. As someone who is fully immersed in online culture (and who has developed my feminism through the Internet age), this was something that made the story all the more real for me.
Apparently, a lot of people were given this novel for Christmas- it’s not exactly cheery, festive fare. But it’s no less important for that. This is one of those books that deserves to be read widely and discussed constantly.