Author: Louise O’Neill
Published: September 3, 2015
***WARNING THIS NOVEL MAY BE A TRIGGER FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT***
At 18 years old, Emma O’Donovan is considered the prettiest girl in her class. A title she has carried around with her since she could remember, and not shying away from it. But at a party something happens that changes the way people see her forever.
Emma is raped at the party, and the novel is divided between the events leading up to the assault and events that occur a year after it. Through these two time lines you see a complete (obvious) change in Emma. You see how the people around her are dealing with the assault as well, and how it affects everyone. Set in present day, the story includes teens interaction with social media and how it can play into incidents like this.
She was seen as something physical before the event, and even after she is known for her body. But the difference is that before the rape, she was control of her image, she controlled her body. But after, she is left powerless. The continuous objectification of her body, using it against her, to the point where she feels it is no longer her own.
The characters in this novel, Emma included, are not the best of people. The girls group that Emma surrounds herself with simply are not nice to one another. With constant gossiping behind each other’s backs, the female competition with boys, and the complete lack of consideration for one another. And Emma is seen as the ringleader of this group, probably the meanest, arrogant, most selfish one. But all of that is irrelevant in cases like this. It does not matter the kind of person, no one deserves to be in that situation. She was not asking for it.
O’Neill writes with unsettling realism. There is no lie in saying that this book is a difficult one to read. You can image the events playing out every similarly in real life because they have. She questioning of female allegations are not an uncommon occurrence. It’s hard to say that the novel was good or bad because the topic it covers is so important and one that needs to be talked about.
“‘No.’ The word comes automatic. No. No. No. It’s all I say these days. It is as if I am making up for the time when I couldn’t say it. When I wasn’t given the chance to say it. No.”
Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network: (US and Canada) 1-888-407-4747 (Overseas) +1 202-501-4444
Rape Crisis Centre for Children and Adults: (US) 210-349-7273
Kids Help Phone Canada: 1-800-668-6868