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This time ten years ago I was doing my leaving cert (TEN fecking years FML!) and thankfully social media was only a baba…

Looking back, my generation was probably the last to be raised hashtag free – I sat the daunting LC circa 2006 and only as a college fresher joined Bebo (the LOLZ), and that was it – The intrusive yet addictive social media frenzy was upon us.

I’m not the biggest social media fan – (Yes I may write this blog but skincare and food is about as deep as it gets!), as I find facebook (and the likes) a little bit too tradge. On the one hand it’s amazing for staying in contact with people, BUT in reality it’s a means to a nose – Who’s yer man/who’s yer one, stalk, stalk stalk, etc etc etc. Which is why I’m not on facebook. And which is why I’m so glad it was non-existent during my Convent of Mercy days…

Facebook takes the silent lead in ‘Asking For It‘; the devastatingly addictive novel by Louise O’Neill. I literally couldn’t finish this book quickly enough – It’s incredible. And I honestly think that every student, parent, teenager, social media user, adult (and their neighbours) should read this.

It tells the sorry tale of Emma, an 18 year old mean girl from West Cork. Emma is basically an Irish Regina George, with the world at her conceited feet – but who, (like most eighteen year olds) hasn’t learned the ‘know the one that’s one too many’ lesson. That is – until she gets baloobas at a house party and ends up whoring about the place – with only social media to fill her in (when her memory fails) on the morning after the night before….

Or was she whoring around at all? Was it not rape? Or was it ‘rape, rape’? And so the tale unfolds. The book follows Emma’s life around during the ‘was it/wasn’t it?’ aftermath – and it’s an incredibly raw, distressing read.

From the first chapter I was sucked in – I knew the girls and lads Louise spoke of, the small town and its teachers, the parish priest, the neighbours, the slut shaming, the notions, the ‘asking for it’ mentality… It’s all so scarily realistic, right down to the last page – where it ends entirely wrong, yet entirely ‘real’.

The dangerous, lasting power of social media is portrayed vividly throughout, along with the ease at which internet trolls can rule. Emma’s tale literally floored me. The way in which Louise O’Neill portrays the psychological damage done is incredible – The shame, depression, anxiety, blame, guilt. Emma is such a bitch from the outset, but in such an insecure, teenage girl kinda way that her bitchy vibes serve only to portray just how vulnerable, young and naive she is.

The psychological rollercoaster that follows is addictive, but painfully harsh. Never have I felt more inside a character’s mind.

It’s rare to read a story so incredibly dire, yet so scarily girl-next-door. There are no cloak and dagger dramatics, no guns, no kidnappings, nobody dies. The book’s location, and its characters are painfully mundane. Binge drinking, ‘checking-in’ on FB, studying for the leaving cert – So far so boring. But the fall out from one night changes lives forever. And as it should.

‘Asking For It’ highlights just how hopeless victims of rape are made to feel in Ireland (and worldwide), and how pathetic the legal system (for rape trials) truly is. The harsh closing image – an utterly depressing picture of Emma frozen in time having lost everything, makes this easily the saddest – but most powerful – book I’ve read in a very long time.

Five gold stars from me.

I hope (and presume) Hollywood is knocking on Louise O’Neill’s door for the movie rights. I’ll be first in the queue with popcorn, malteasers (and tissues).

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