Author: Louise O’Neill
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
There were literally only 2 characters in this entire book I liked; Conor (the boy next door) and Bryan (Emma’s brother). Emma was unlikeable from the very beginning. She was judgemental, she was bitchy, she was narcissistic and she was just plain rude, as were all of her friends, however, it wasn’t hard to sympathise with her. I think it was a great tactic using a very horrible character as someone we are supposed to feel sympathy for, and let me tell you, it worked. It was absolutely disgusting the way the characters treated Emma after she was raped and the fact that people actually treat rape victims like that makes me so so mad. Her parents were horrible people who cared more about what other people thought of them than the safety and well-being of their children, and actually CONGRATULATED Emma when she dropped the charges against the boys. What? The friends were all horrible as well, and didn’t even ask for Emma’s side of the story (however Emma did brush aside her friend Jamie’s rape so I can understand why they did what they did). Conor was a sweetheart who Emma treated like shit; honestly I don’t know what he saw in her. I think the scariest thing is, the characters, no matter their horrible flaws, were real. I literally know people in real life who are like this. It’s rare to come across characters that really feel real, and I think O’Neill did a spectacular job of creating characters we related to, whether we liked them or not.
The plot fell a little short for me. From the beginning, I didn’t really know where O’Neill was going to take us plot wise. I expected the incident to be in the first couple of chapters and the rest of the book to be about the repercussions of rape and the following trial. The repercussions followed, however I was disappointed there was no trial. I do however find this more believable, as most cases of rape either aren’t successful or accusations aren’t put forward in the first place. I think theme wise O’Neill has written an extremely important novel, and the exploration of consent, rape culture, victim-blaming and the affect social media has in today’s society was very thorough and (for the most part) very real. (I don’t believe the pornographic images of Emma would have stayed on Facebook but anyways…) I kind of wish O’Neill had written about a trial, however the point she was trying to get across is still very easy to understand through this plot.
This book was hard to read, not necessarily because of the writing, but because of the issues raised and explored throughout the novel. I feel O’Neill wrote eloquently and in a sophisticated manner and that it really is true that “O’Neill writes with a scalpel.” I like that O’Neill didn’t sugar coat anything; her writing was raw and sharp, it was real.
Overall thoughts and recommendation
I really enjoyed reading this book and would certainly recommend this book to teenagers 16+ (NOTE: this book is NOT for younger readers). Definitely an important message being explored, and it’s definitely something we need to be talking about.
Thanks for reading!