When I attended the YA Book Prize at Hay this year, every book sounded so good that I was determined to read those I hadn't already read.
The books shortlisted were: Concentr8 by William Sutcliffe, Unbecoming by Jenny Downham, The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson, The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury, Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne, The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo, The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, Asking For It by Louise O’Neill and the winning title, One by Sarah Crossan.
Excellent books- each one for a whole range of reasons- but the one that has had a huge effect on me is Louisa O'Neill's Asking for It.
O'Neill's first book- Only Ever Yours-was an excellent read; clever, thought-provoking and (in my eyes) incredibly sad. Asking for It takes things to a completely different level.
Emma O'Donovan is 18, beautiful and popular. One night, events at a party change her life for ever- events she can't remember, but which are spread across social media for the world to share and comment on.
This is a brave and much needed book. It is shocking and painful to read. It is incredibly poignant and powerful. It is one I will continue to be touched by and to think about for a long time to come.
Written in the first person, we are with Emma every step of the way. Constantly needing to prove herself, she is bitchy and unkind to her closest friends, making sure she is the centre of attention, always seeking to upstage others. But we are also privy to her insecurities and her vulnerability. With each reckless and foolish decision she makes, we are irritated, horrified, confused by her actions- but never do we feel she was 'asking for it'.
I am sure many will disagree with me, but I feel this is essential reading for all teenagers- boys and girls- and for adults as well. It is a book that will encourage discussion, challenge stereotypes - boys will be boys- talk about consent, victim-blaming, making excuses and the double standards which are still an ingrained part of our world today.