Bookish Review: The Rasputin Dagger by Theresa Breslin

The Rasputin Dagger by Theresa Breslin

Published: 10 August 2017 by Random House Children’s

Genre: Historical, Young Adult

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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Synopsis from Goodreads: Russia, 1916. Nina Ivanovna’s world is in turmoil. Her only hope is to travel to St Petersburg, to escape the past and find a future. Stefan Kolodin is a medical student – young and idealistic, he wants change for Russia and its people. Amidst the chaos of a city in revolt, their lives collide. And a stormy relationship develops . . . full of passion and politics. But soon Nina is drawn in to the glamorous, lavish lives of the Russian royal family – where she begins to fall under the spell of their mysterious monk, Grigory Rasputin. The ruby-studded dagger he carries – beautiful and deadly – could save her and Stefan from a cursed life . . . or condemn them to it. untitled

Review: The Rasputin Dagger was my first historical YA in a while, and I was really craving a good one. Luckily it delivered! Theresa Breslin, a Carnegie Medal winner, is a heavyweight in YA historical fiction – her war romance novel Remembrance has remained unforgettable to this day. So I was definitely looking forward to seeing how she handled a slightly different, but nonetheless exciting, period of history.

A story is the most powerful weapon in the wide, wide world.

As a fully confessed history nerd (and history major!) when I pick up a historical novel, I’m after a faithful use of the setting and Breslin always seems to deliver on this front. I feel like often in YA a historical setting can be a little secondary to the plot – so you’ll have this brilliant setting but you never really scratch the surface beyond the usual mentions around dress, behaviours, location etc. In The Rasputin Dagger, however, you really get a sense of St. Petersburg and the lives of the people in the city. I found it totally immersive and got caught up in the daily hardships faced by the average Russian because of the war effort and the relatively untouched lives of the Imperial family.

The whole of Russia, and in particular our city, is like a huge barrel of gunpowder surrounded by desperate souls brandishing lighted tapers.

I adored the way politics was woven in, something which is often neglected or glossed over in YA books, seemingly because teens aren’t given enough credit for being interested/able to digest slightly ‘heavier’ topics (when hello Teen Vogue anyone?) In The Resputin Dagger, you get a real sense of the divisions in society, and the different ideologies at play – I thought it was clever how each of the characters seemed to represent a different point on the political spectrum but still be able to call each other friends and family. The characters were generally just great – Nina, our female protagonist, and Galena the housekeeper were fabulous female characters, resourceful and strong, and not at all content to sit back and watch their lives as they know it pretty much change before their eyes. I also really liked how understated and slow burn the romance was – there was absolutely no instalove here.

No on is taking me anywhere. I go where I please. I too am a bread-queue woman, and today I will join with my fellow women.

Breslin was also brilliant at portraying historical figures like Rasputin and the Imperial family – they were neither black nor white. Oftentimes with historical novels it seems there’s a tendency to sensationalise famous people in history. Instead, Breslin doesn’t get caught up in making characters ‘bad’ or ‘good’ but rather show them as they might have been, letting the reader make up their own mind. The same goes for the plot. I liked that The Rasputin Dagger stayed true to history and didn’t overly rely on the famous figures to drive the plot. Instead, you really get to know the main fictional characters and, because of their well-developed back stories, learn why they think and are the way they are.

A person with a book in their hands wields more power than the one who holds a gun.

One thing I have to say is that the blurb doesn’t seem all that faithful to the book itself in my opinion. The romance and supernatural/fantasy element is played up more in the blurb and made to seem like the focal points of this book. Instead, I found The Rasputin Dagger to be way more subtle and intricate, and it seems a shame that this isn’t reflected in the blurb. I loved how the supernatural curse element is woven throughout the book, more subtle and used more as a plot device for Nina to learn her history. Overall, I really enjoyed The Rasputin Dagger and think if you’re a historical YA fan or at all interested in this part of Russia history, this book will not disappoint!

What are your favourite historical YA books? If you have any recs, send them my way please! 🙂

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ARC Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

gallery-1473414254-florabankscoverreveal123The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

Release Date: 12 January 2017 by Penguin Random House UK Children’s

Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Young Adult

Series: None (Standalone)

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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Synopsis from Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not in any way influence my views on the book.

Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks has one of the most interesting premises I’ve come across and that blurb instantly hooked me so I was delighted when I managed to get my hands on an ARC copy.

First things first, this was a totally unique book in terms of premise, plot and protagonist. I have never read anything where the main character suffers from “anterograde amnesia” and The One Memory of Flora Banks really gave an insight into what it’s like to live with a chronic illness like that. Especially at the beginning of the book, we follow Flora as her memory “resets” several times in a day and it is so disconcerting to see her retracing the same steps over and over again. It really brought home how difficult simple things must be for Flora.

How can I have forgotten that I have amnesia? How, though, could I possibly remember?

And it is precisely that which makes the plot of the novel so much more compelling. Although I know the premise of a kiss/boy spurring Flora on to undertake a cross-continent journey has understandably rankled some readers, I thought it was less the kiss and more the profoundness of her recalling something. I’d like to think if it was any other memory, she’d react in the same way purely because of how rare it is for her to remember anything. It was heart breaking to see Flora deal with having a memory and her desperation in wanting to believe it an indicator that she is healing.

I check my hand. FLORA, it says, be brave.

I loved reading about Flora’s coping mechanisms. I could vividly imagine her with her arms scribbled on and her house with things to trigger her memory of who she is. Flora’s voice is so captivating, her thoughts, fears, and dreams really jump off the page. I found it inspiring how candid Flora is about her memory loss and how she’s both naive and brave at the same time – she doesn’t let her chronic illness and constant reminders that she shouldn’t try to function alone stop her from going after Drake and the truth. 

This is how my journey will begin. One thing at a time.

The story itself kept me intrigued, wanting to know why she’d remembered the kiss and what would happen when she found Drake. The setting of Svalbard was brilliant – Barr really excelled at using the desolate landscape to draw comparisons with Flora’s state of mind. The other characters were intriguing in how they dealt with Flora’s amnesia, especially how they must adapt to her forgetfulness. For 90% of the book though we are “alone” with Flora seeing things through her eyes so you’re always wondering how much of a reliable narrator she is.

He does not know me, or he would never ask what I did yesterday. People tell me what I did yesterday: they do not ask.

For me, the book picked up the pace in the last quarter of the book and I was riveted by the last few chapters! However, it felt like it ended rather abruptly – I actually would’ve liked to see more development and the aftermath of what happens in those last few chapters. Without giving away spoilers, I’m also a little disappointed at how some things were explained away rather easily when they seemed to me to be pivotal parts of the narrative and plot.

Despite these few niggles though, The One Memory of Flora Banks is great if you’re after a good slow-burn thriller with a compelling narrator and story or if you’re interested in a good YA exploration of living with a chronic illness. I’d definitely recommend it to fans of Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything and Eileen Cook’s With Malice. This book was Barr’s first foray into YA but I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for her other offerings. The One Memory of Flora Banks is out next week on Thursday 12 January!

Are you looking forward to The One Memory of Flora Banks? Are you a big fan of mystery/thrillers? Any recs for great YA similar to TOMoFB? Drop me your thoughts in the comments below!

Bookish Review: The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee

9780008179977The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

Published: August 2016 by Harper Collins

Genre: Sci-Fi, YA

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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This book was one of those impulse reads based on the cover. I was in a bit of a book slump over the summer (hence the tumbleweed on this blog…) so when I came across this gold, gleaming and very unsubtle cover I thought this would be the perfect easy read.

Manhattan, 2118. The Tower dominates the skylines, a thousand floor building which represents the incomprehensible wealth of those on the upper floors and the desires of those on the lower floors. New York City is almost unrecognisable with the vast leaps in technology, but often people don’t change and it doesn’t matter how much money or tech you have. Enter five people whose lives are shaken by family drama, dangerous liaisons and secrets that must remain hidden. But what happens when those secrets risk being outed, and what lengths will they go to to avoid the dreaded fall from grace?

In this world, the higher you go, the farther there is to fall…

The Thousandth Floor has been likened to two well-known YA series: Cecily von Ziegesar’s Gossip Girl and Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars. Now I’ve not read either of these series (travesty, I know) but I am fans of both TV series so I thought this would be right up my street and it didn’t disappoint. The characters basically read like a Gossip Girl roll call: we have Avery Fuller, the Serena van der Woodsen high society it-girl, Eris Dodd-Radson, the Blair Waldorf best friend, Cord Anderton, the Chuck Bass old money playboy, Watt Bakradi, the Dan Humphrey geeky wannabe, Leda Cole, the Georgina Sparks, the slightly off the rails chick, and Rilyn Myers, the firmly working class Vanessa Abrams well you get the drift. The characters  range from the  super-rich like Avery Fuller who lives on the Thousandth Floor right down to Rilyn Myers who is barely scraping by and lives on the 32nd floor.

And beneath her bare feet lay the biggest structure on earth, a whole world unto itself.

The setting of The Thousandth Floor is one of the things that really set it apart from your usual sci-fi and I was a little reluctant to use that genre tag. It’s futuristic but the tech advances are frighteningly feasible and not too much of a leap for the imagination (electric-shock instant hair straightening anyone?). The Tower itself is a brilliant metaphor as it literally resembles a social pyramid with the teeming masses at the bottom where the floors house thousands of units, compared to the top where 10 mansion units will make up all the floors space. I have to say though, it did take me a while to get to grips with the architecture of the Tower itself – the sheer scale of it wasn’t immediately obvious and I would’ve liked to understand how it came about a bit more. It seems to have replicas of real NYC monuments but it doesn’t go into why the parks have been recreated or why buildings have been seemingly lifted from ground level into the Tower.

The chapters are written from five different POV with lots more secondary characters part of the story so it was a bit overwhelming at first trying to keep track of who’s who and their respective stories. But it wasn’t as much of a problem as you go along because the stories begin to intertwine quite ingeniously. As with any multiple POV storytelling, I had my favourites and not-so-favourites, and I did find myself skimming through a few of them towards the end. I have to admit this was mostly because in the last quarter of the book we are literally racing towards the climax and I just really wanted to know how it ended dammit!

He didn’t know whether she’d fallen, or been pushed, or whether – crushed by the weight of unspoken secrets – she’d decided to jump.

The blurb really hooked me as well as the first chapter and my interest in finding out who falls from the Tower held until the last page. Whilst a lot of the drama can be described as very #firstworldproblems like falls from grace and wealth, illicit romances, downward spirals etc., I didn’t go into The Thousandth Floor expecting serious and heavy stuff so it delivered on what it promises. I was interested enough in the dilemmas of each character to overlook their obvious pettiness and privilege. 

This is a good book if you’re after something a little light-hearted, with enough drama and an interesting twist to the Gossip Girl set up to keep you turning the pages. The Thousandth Floor is apparently a trilogy and although I’m keen to read about the aftermath of the first book, I don’t think it was absolutely necessary.

Have you read The Thousandth Floor? Yay or nay?

Bookish Review: World Book Day 2016

    

World Book Day is exactly what is says on the tin – an annual celebration of books across the globe. A host of famous authors pen special short stories as part of the event and these WBD reads are short, sweet and cheap but always high quality.

For World Book Day 2016, two authors of YA Royalty, Rainbow Rowell and Juno Dawson, offered up the older reads and so you can imagine I was excited to get stuck in.

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

Published: February 2016 by Macmillan Kids UK

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Short Story

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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I will literally read anything by HRH Rainbow Rowell – seriously she could write about watching paint dry and I would still devour it 😀 True to her style, Rowell’s Kindred Spirits took us on a fangirl journey that was just charming and adorkable.

Elena is a Star Wars fan. No, you don’t understand, if you broke Elena’s heart, Star Wars would spill out. So she decides to camp out at her local cinema for the new movie. Elena imagines a 3 days of glorious fangirling with people just as obsessed as her so she’s a little disappointed when the reality turns out to be a queue of two other people. However, over the course 3 days Elena finds that the bonds of fandom can overcome even the most awkward situation and lead to the discovery of the best kindred spirits…

Gosh this book was just so darned cute – like grinning-ear-to-ear cute. Kindred Spirits is infinitely quotable and relatable. I found myself laughing out loud at Elena’s mother’s response to her intent to camp out for the movie (“You don’t even know these men. They could be sexual predators.”) Also the whole Asian, petite, looking like a 12 year old? Yeah I could totally relate.

For a short story, the characters were wonderfully developed (skills, Ms Rowell *tips hat*). Troy was hilarious and so realistic whilst Gabe was brilliantly polite and genuine. I always appreciate how Rowell never makes her characters into caricatures when she writes about fangirling and fandom. Elena, Gabe and Troy covered the wide spectrum of different levels of obsession and helps us to realise that we should all be uniting rather than competing over who is a more devoted fan.

The ending was perfect – it was adorable and I really hope Elena and Gave get a full length novel of their own. I’d love to see their friendship and relationship play out as well as find out more about each of the characters and their back stories.  My final takeaway from this book? If you find a guy who can help you pee under fraught circumstances, he’s a keeper!

Spot the Difference by Juno Dawsom

Published: March 2016 by Hot Key Books

Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Short Story

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

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It was fitting that the Queen of Teen would be penning one of the YA WBD offerings and I went into Spot the Difference with no idea about the issues it dealt with.

Avery, and her best friend, Lois are distinctly Z-list at Brecken Heath High where the social pyramid is pretty rigid and defined. relegated by Avery’s severe acne and Lois’s “funny little arm”, Avery’s life is pretty grim. That is until a miracle cure comes along which seems to improve both her skin and her social status. But Avery soon finds perfection isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be…

Spot the Difference was very different to Kindred Spirits. It deals with the issue of acne and explores it really well. I found it totally original and, as far as I’m aware, a main stream YA book has yet to deal with the issue with the focus Dawson does in Spot the Difference. Acne is a really prevalent condition and one that affects many young people from their teens and sometimes even into adulthood and so that was by far the best thing about this book.

Plot-wise, yes, it was a little clichéd with the popular crowd and the reject that pines to belong to said crowd, and the ending that was a nicely packaged “grass isn’t always greener” moral. But despite these misgivings I don’t think this was Dawson’s focus, rather the focus was more about Avery and how her life is defined by the condition of her skin. The broad cast of characters were pretty unremarkable and one-dimensional, mostly defined by their role as A-list or otherwise but I did find Avery’s character and the way she dealt with her issue realistic and well-written. None of us can say we wouldn’t at least consider “going over to the dark side” if we were in her position…

All in all, this is a really impressive go at dealing with an interesting and under-discussed issue in the space of 80 or so pages. Definitely a “realistic contemporary YA” book to read for the issue it discusses rather than for the plot because it’s absolutely worth the very short time it would take to read it.

Bookish Review: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine

91cHcWU-ICLThe Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine

Published: June 2015 by Egmont

GenreMiddle Grade, Historical, Mystery

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow is one of those books that has been swimming around my radar for a while. It’s a mystery wrapped up in historical fiction so I was very much like “gimme” when I finally got around to it.

Sophie Taylor is trying to make her way in the world after being suddenly orphaned following the death of her beloved father. Luckily, she manages to land a job at the Milliners Department of the new, first-of-it’s-kind Sinclair’s department store. However things get off to a rocky start after the priceless clockwork sparrow, on show at the store, is stolen and Sophie finds herself being investigated by the police as the prime suspect. With the help of her new friends Lil, a Sinclair’s model and stage actress, Billy, the shy porter with a soft spot for Sophie, and Joe the stranger on the run from the East End, can Sophie clear her name before it’s too late?

This was a 3.5 verging on 4 star book for me. This was a nice, light read which sped along nicely. I think what really stood out for me though were the delightful characters. I loved how tenacious Sophie was despite how the tenuous life she’d tried so hard to build up was collapsing around her. I loved how supportive and genuine Lil was, she is basically the best friend all girls need. Billy was loyal, but adorably a little shy, whilst it was really interesting to see Joe’s character evolution. I loved the little gang that Sophie, Billy, Lil and Joe made up (also some intense shipping going on here!!) and liked that they were all distinct personalities from diverse backgrounds. The different POVs gave us a better insight into each of the characters and whilst this meant we didn’t get to know any of them particularly well, as this is a series, I’m sure that will come in time.

I think the plot was where the book fell down a little for me – it’s meant to be a light-hearted romp of a mystery aimed at the middle grade audience, so I really wasn’t expecting it to take the turn that it did and become quite political! The climax was a bit outlandish, especially when Sophie was the only person who could stop a major catastrophe from happening and I suppose I felt I had to suspend my belief a little. Nonetheless, it was exciting and I must admit the mystery did keep me turning the pages. I think I’m more interested in the hints and clues Woodfine sprinkled throughout the book surrounding the mastermind villain and her departed father than I am about mulling over the actual mystery of the book which I usually love doing once finishing the book… 

The setting was a big part of The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow. Sinclair’s department store is inspired by the renowned Selfridges and Harrods of London, and there actually was a department store, Simpson’s, that stood on the current Waterstones site in Piccadilly!  I adored the lavish and detailed descriptions of Sinclair’s – the different departments, the luxury and innovation it represented but also the great machinery and army of workers needed to keep it going. Woodfine describes in exquisite detail everything from the beautiful architecture, the array of different departments, the luxury items on sale at the store, as well as the wealthy patrons who visit – so much so that I found myself taking a virtual tour of Sinclair’s 🙂

I would recommend The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow to fans of the Wells & Wong mysteries by Robin Stevens, or just anyone after a light read with delightful characters and a good plot that keeps you engaged and interested throughout. Fair warning though – it will leave you craving buns and wanting to visit a department store milliners to try on Edwardian style hats…

Bookish Review: The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

Published: January 2016 by Walker Books

GenreHistorical, Fantasy, Romance

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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UGH just look at that cover! Gorgeous Lady Helen, Broody Lord Carlston – seriously just gimme! I’d not read any of Alison Goodman’s previous novels but the cover (more about that later…) and blurb definitely grabbed me. Also I’m a massive historical fiction fan, and the society/debutante Regency sub-genre has always intrigued me so this really was a no-brainer.

Orphan Lady Helen Wrexhall has a £40,000 inheritance but the appeal of this is tempered by the rumour that her mother was a traitor to the Crown. After the disappearance of her housemaid and on the cusp of her debut into Society she finds herself thrust into the world of the demon-fighting Dark Days Club and finds out her unusual story is even stranger than she could possible have imagined. And to top it off the mysterious (and deliciously handsome) Lord Carlston seems to be the only person who can help… Lady Helen sets out to understand her destiny but juggling societal expectations and the inusufferable Lord Carlston soon proves way more than she can handle and it’s not long before Lady Helen finds herself in over her head.

The setting of Regency London is almost a character in and of itself in The Dark Days Club. I loved the rich description of everything from the attire of the nobility, the atmospheric London setting, and the strict rules and conventions that governed Regency society. Goodman’s detail is so immersive and as a born-and-bred Londoner many of the street names and parks were familiar to me. I really enjoyed imagining places like Piccadilly, Cheapside and Vauxhall with hackney carriages trundling down them and street peddlers on every corner. The references to real historical figures and events also helped to ground the book and made it so much more evocative of the era. There’s an Author’s Note at the end explaining the extensive research Goodman undertook in writing the book and it really shows. My favourite had to be the detail about Lady Helen’s wardrobe (seriously lush!) and the different rules of engagement between men and women (who knew ungloved hands could be so intimate?)

Lady Helen was a great character – she was spunky but at the same time sheltered and unsure of all the changes that were happening to and around her. I loved following the character’s progress as she finds out about The Dark Days Club and her place in it, and watching her transformation from a skeptical girl condemned to her lot in life as a Lady to the confident girl who makes her own decisions . The relationship between her and her lady’s maid, Darby, was a really wonderful portrayal of female relationships and they passed the Bechdel Test with flying colours. Lord Carlston was oh so swoonworthy – one of the reasons why I much prefer the UK cover over others 😉 He’s a complex character with lots of secrets and I’m looking forward to learning more about him in the next installment. I cheered on Lady Helen’s suspicion of Lord Carlston and reluctance to immediately and naively look to him for answers and appreciated that Goodman made the romance between the two veeery slow-burning (the tension between the two was so thick that by the end I was all for a bit of classic YA insta-love resolution)

I thought the fantasy element was really original and interesting. Goodman goes to a lot of effort to world-build but I felt that sometimes the explanations were a bit dense and also lots of the rules around the demons were conditional e.g. certain things would only happen during a full moon or if a demon had been feeding. I found it was an effort to recall all of these conditions/details and assimilate them with the events as they were happening. Nonetheless, the concept was refreshing and as it is the first book, the dense explanations are perhaps understandable and expected – another reason why I’m looking forward to the next in series!

The Dark Days Club was a great mix of fantasy, history and romance with classic YA heroes and heroines and I would definitely recommend it to fans of The Infernal Devices or The Diviners series where the fantasy element and the rich historical background blend together really well. I would probably recommend this for the beautiful detail of Regency London alone and think anyone even vaguely interested in the era would find it enjoyable!

Bookish Review: Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

Published: September 2015 by Quercus UK

Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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I read O’Neill’s debut Only Ever Yours (review here) last year and liked it so I was looking forward to more material from the author. I also tend to prefer contemporary fiction to dystopia, the genre of Only Ever Yours, so this looked very promising.

Asking For It follows Emma O’Donovan, a confident and gorgeous eighteen-year-old, who is gang-raped at a party by a group of boys who play on the school football team. Emma wakes up the morning after with no recollection of the previous night until she becomes the school pariah and she finally comes across the evidence of what happened to her that night of the party. As the explicit photos circulate wider and wider, Emma finds herself up against the town’s heroes and their supporters who paint her as the girl who was “asking for it”.

The setting of the story is a small town in Ireland where the local football stars are worshiped as heroes who can do no wrong. It was interesting to see the reactions of the various characters play out, from family and close friends to people in positions of authority, and how everyone seemed to have an opinion on the rape – whether it was if Emma was dealing with the incident “correctly” or who was to blame. One thing I really liked though was the focus throughout the novel on Emma and her immediate surroundings, her experience as she tries to reclaim her life. Oftentimes, stories such as this one can get diluted with focus on the perpetrators which can take over the narrative and turn stories like this one into a victim’s story vs. perpetrator’s story. Thankfully Asking For It steered well clear of this. O’Neill also brought into sharp relief just how the adage of “innocent until proven guilty” is a luxury usually afforded to the rapists but the not the victim who was immediately branded as “asking for it”.

I went through a roller-coaster of emotions reading Asking For It thanks to O’Neill’s writing which has been described like a “scalpel” and that it most certainly is! There were two phrases that were repeated throughout the book and really drove home Emma’s horrific ordeal and ensured the reader was never able to dismiss what happened to Emma – similar to the photos and how Emma could not escape them in the novel.

At the beginning, I was not at all impressed by Emma and I initially could not relate to her. She was vapid, took her social status for granted and used it to hurt others, she was jealous of her friends’ wealth, stealing from them because she didn’t believe it was wrong. She was corrosive and unsympathetic to those outside her circle of friends as well as those within. But I think the whole point of the book was that you weren’t particularly meant to like Emma – it makes us acknowledge that empathy towards Emma’s/any victim of rape’s plight should not be based on how likable they are, how short their dress is, how much they’ve had to drink etc. It should be about the fact that they have been abused in the most horrific way and that rape is rape no matter who it happens to. And this goes back to the crux of the whole novel.

Following the aftermath, I went from not liking the character to feeling her despair. The guilt she felt and that was placed on her by all sections of society, from within her own family to news columnists across the country, was relentless and O’Neill masterfully makes the reader feel that anguish . The final emotion was heartbreak when I read the ending – I won’t go in to any great detail as I don’t want to spoil anyone but whilst I, like a number of other readers, felt it could’ve been different, I’m glad it wasn’t. O’Neill’s ending whilst perhaps not the most uplifting is incredibly realistic and honest. This book belongs to victims like Emma and the sad fact is that rarely do these stories have happy endings. The ending was true to many victims which is infinitely more important and I’m glad that O’Neill did their stories and courage justice.

The only issue I had with Asking For It was that the flow felt a little disjointed at times. Tenses and the characters speaking changed between one sentence and the next at odd times, and I found I had to re-read some entire paragraphs just to decipher it thus ruining the flow for me. This kind of writing style would make sense post-incident where the disjointed thoughts of the victim as a result of trauma could be illustrated but it was the case at the beginning too – the first couple of pages in fact.

Overall though, Asking For It is a brilliant contribution to the genre and is a hard-hitting and emotional read. It deals with a topic that is oft-overlooked and challenges the judgmental narrative around rape and consent. Definitely a must-read for all ages and genders in my opinion.