A scarily real and harsh depiction that left me exhausted after such an emotional fuelled and hard hitting read. I thought I knew what I was letting myself in for when picking up this Louise O’Neill book, but what I read was far more intense than I would ever had imagined a read like this would be. I sped through the book, desperate for a resolution. It honestly was a heartbreaking read.
In the summer she turned 18, Emma was pretty, popular and someone everyone want to be or be around. That is until one party, where she wakes up on her front porch sunburnt and with no memory. However, the explicit pictures that appear on Facebook tell her what did go on and after they concern the town’s heroes. When forced to face the truth, Emma starts to lose herself and everyone around her.
That was definitely so much deeper than I had ever had imaged to read. I knew that Louise O’Neill was not going to hold back, not after reading Only Ever Yours. But the waves of emotional torment that came crashing down throughout this novel. And it was exactly what was needed to place an edge on a novel with these type of themes. Although I had previously read novels with slight hints of sexual assault and rape before, never had I come across a young adult novel the theme solely relying on it, especially portrayed in the way that Louise O’Neill does so. At points I found it hard to read and carry on doing so, but I feel enlightened, even if with a heavy heart, from reading this story that has such a different view from others that I had encountered.
I think a main contribution to this was the characterisation of the main character, Emma. Self assured, pretty and popular she was so full of herself before. I appreciate the added detail of the conversation between Jamie and her the Halloween before, her position established on the subject, even if it was one I disagreed with. It set the tension for the rest of the novel, leaving the reader fully aware of Emma’s stance and beliefs which unfortunately reflect that of many. Her self-promotion and bragging of self is one that I despised. Rather than have a character one can relate to, O’Neill has created a character hard to sympathise with initially. I feel it allows the reader to understand the perspectives more, rather than instantly empathising with her, yet allows for a development to occur as soon as the event happens.
I appreciate that the novel was split into two. Before and during the attack, which was incredibly hard to read, and a year after which was equally a hard read. To show how much this has affected Emma even a year later is hard to swallow yet detrimental to the storyline. The repetitiveness of Emma’s emotions and actions in the second half of the book just prove how deeply a victim can be affected and the warped perspective that can end up having. Emma continously sees it from the boy’s perspective, seeing it as her fault and this is just heart breaking to read.
The ending was what angered me the most. The failure of resolution and Emma’s choice in the end is one that had me flipping the pages at the end. I just got angrier and annoyed. However, I appreciate Louise O’Neill’s afterword about her decision to do and completely understand that it unfortunately reflects what happens the system and makes for a much more realistic read than satisfying justice.
This read was so hard hitting, with realism so sharp it hurt to read. I really appreciate Louise O’Neill for writing such a work though as I feel informed, even if it with a heavy heart.