Published on: April 5th 2016
Published by: Quercus
Genre: YA Contemporary
Format: Review Copy
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(summary from Goodreads)
It’s the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma.
The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can’t remember what happened, she doesn’t know how she got there. She doesn’t know why she’s in pain. But everyone else does.
Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don’t want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town’s heroes…
Whilst at YALC I attended a panel which features Louise O’Neill and hearing her talk about her book really made me want to read it. Luckily I discovered that I actually already had a review copy from Netgalley (I really should keep up with my Netgalley books more!). The response to this book at YALC and online was great, so it was a little disappointing when I finally got round to reading it that I didn’t really feel the same way.
“When did we all become fluent in this language that none of us wanted to learn?”
I really struggled with the beginning 30% of this book. To put it bluntly Emma is a b*tch. I hated her, like really hated her. I have read about a lot of evil characters who have done really horrible things, but I have always been able to read them. But Emma just got to me. Her selfishness, her bitchiness, her scheming and just plain horrible thoughts about people who thought she cared about them. And my hatred for her worried me even right at the beginning because I wondered how I was ever going to be able to like this girl when it got down to the darker parts of this story.
“I am not falling apart. I am being ripped at the seams, my insides torn out until I am hollow.”
Sexual assault is never an easy thing to read about and the direction that O’Neill takes the story is completely different then most . As a reader we want the MC to recover, and I don’t for them to totally get over it and for it to never bother them again. But we hope for them to find some kind of peace. But I guess it doesn’t always happen like that in real life and this is the tale that O’Neil decides to tell.
“I like it better when my room is pitch black, when the dark is so thick it swallows me up and I feel as if I could drown in it.”
The whole situation that Emma finds herself in is just terrible and the thing that really shocked me was the way that people responded to the pictures of Emma naked, unconscious and being raped by not just one but several boys. People that she goes to school with and people from her town all commented commenting on her body, rating her body, calling her a slut, calling her easy. It was shocking to me that none of these people seemed to realise that what they were seeing is rape, and it really opened my eyes to something which is a very real problem in the world today..
“They are all innocent until proven guilty. But not me. I am a liar until I am proven honest.“
O’Neill makes a lot of reference in this book to rape that happens to girls who were drunk/high and may have been dressed slightly promiscuously. Rape is rape, no matter what the victim was wearing it how drunk they were and O’Neill shows Emma’s internal struggle as she ends up seeing herself as both the guilty party and the victim in her assault from the comments that other people are saying about her.
“My body is not my own any more. They have stamped their names all over it.“
I really liked that this book was told from two different times: when the assault actually happened and then a year later. You could really see just how much Emma’s life had changed, how much on an effect it had had on her life and herself and the way that she perceived herself. She no longer saw herself as the pretty girl she had always been so happy to be. Now she saw her beauty as the reason for all these horrible things that had happened, had been done to her and the things that she know felt guilty doing to the rest of the town and her former friends when she decides to make charges of rape.
“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”
“It’s a bit slutty, isn’t it?”
This book ends in a very frustrating way, which O’Neill discusses at the end of the book and her reasons for ending it in the way that she did. And I kind of get why she did it, but at the same time it was annoying to give so much time to a book and for it to end with none of my questions being answered.
“Is it possible to want everything to change and nothing to change, all at the same time?“
I’m glad I read it, and finished it, but felt slightly let down by the ending after struggling through quite a bit of it. I would recommend it, but also warn you to not expect a 5* read.
Re-Readability: Probably not
I would recommend this book to fans of: books set in Ireland, stories featuring assault, books set in high school