This book was as harrowing as it was important and needed to be written. It shines a light on the negative attitudes and shaming that surround victims of rape. It helps deconstruct exactly what happens to the victim of such an atrocity and the horror they often have to go through in search of justice.
Here’s the blurb:
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
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...
The book is narrated by Emma and follows her and her group of three friends. When we begin reading Emma is getting ready for school, where she’s taking her A-levels. Immediately we see that her home life isn’t exactly perfect and we get to know Emma herself, who is quite unlikable. The further on we read the more passive-aggressiveness we see from her and the more I came to dislike her. Very early on in the book we’re alerted to the fact that Emma is beautiful and this is something she relies on heavily in order to manipulate those around her.
The fact that Emma wasn’t a likeable character made it easy for her community and friends to justify the way they treated her after the attack. What was done to her was appalling, but somehow in the minds of her community it was her fault. In essence they said she was asking for it because of who she was and the kind of reputation she had. It was unbelievable the way she was vilified, just because she choose to wear a short dress on the night of her attack and had a reputation of being a player. I believe wholeheartedly that a women should be able to wear what she wants and not be in fear of negative attention because of it.
What was really interesting was the way Emma’s beauty was also used as a justification. Prettiness doesn’t somehow mean a person is fair game. That idea wasn’t explicitly said, but it was alluded to often.
One of the things that made this such a satisfying read was the journey Emma went through, and not just as a result of her attack. The way she treated one friend in particular and her re-examination of the situation later on gave us a more solid idea of her. It also helped us understand why she made the decision she did at the end of the book.
The thing I appreciated most about this book was that the author wasn’t afraid to look at humanity and examine the seediness that often lies within. It was authentic, illuminating and while difficult, an extremely important book. This shaming culture we live in is disgusting and this book helps to show the damage it can and does do.