Louise O’Neill

All posts tagged Louise O’Neill

Asking For It – Louise O’Neill

Published April 27, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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 does.

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…

What did I think?:

I first came across the amazing Louise O’Neill with her debut novel, Only Ever Yours which won a host of acclaim and the YA book prize back in 2015. Just looking at the title, Asking For It, I knew this was going to be a raw, emotional read but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the feelings it would give me while I was reading it. The author approaches difficult topics, things we don’t necessarily talk about much (but SHOULD) with ease and panache and I finished this novel angry with the world but strangely quite empowered and wanting to do something to change it.

If you haven’t heard already, Asking For It is the story of eighteen year old Emma O’Donovan. Her life is pretty much perfect, she has a host of adoring friends, she is popular, beautiful and clever to boot and is the apple of her parents eye. A lot is expected of Emma, especially by her mother and it is interesting to note how the support network around her fails spectacularly after one night when her whole world falls apart. Emma is under the influence of alcohol and drugs when the event occurs and was so wasted that she has no recollection of it at all. Turning up a bit bruised and worse for wear on her doorstep might have just been another night partying a bit too hard? Until school the next day when her friends ignore her, mock her or just plain won’t meet her eye. For there are explicit photographs of Emma and what happened to her plastered all over social media and she has become the laughing stock of the school. Emma has had a bit of a reputation prior to the incident but she was obviously too drunk/high to give her consent… was she asking for it?

While reading this novel, I couldn’t stop thinking about the issue of consent and responsibility that the author has explored in such a visceral, honest way. I’m sure you’ve all heard about the amount of rape cases that actually end in a conviction i.e. very few and as a result, many women feel scared to come forward as they fear they won’t be believed. It is only widely known that the prosecution only need to get a whiff of “she had been drinking,” before the issue of consent becomes a very blurry one. This just makes me so angry. What right does anyone have to use alcohol as an excuse to not convict someone who has brutally invaded a private, personal space? In Asking For It, Louise O’Neill makes our emotions and attitudes whirl considerably more as Emma O’Donovan is not a likeable character in the slightest. She is rude, bitchy and a nasty piece of work and initially, she was so rotten I felt I couldn’t possibly feel sorry for her. Until the party. Until she becomes a wreck, a broken shell of herself, possibly ruined for life and intensely pitiable. Of course, no matter someone’s personality/past actions, absolutely no one deserves to be violated like that.

We have to start talking about this issue, we simply must try and lift the shame behind having this happen and treat victims the way they should be treated, as a human being with basic rights to their own body that no-one should take away unless they explicitly consent to it. This is why this book is so great – it makes you think, it makes you emotional, it makes you desperate to see change and it makes you worry about every single woman that this has happened to. Certainly nobody is EVER “Asking For It.” A huge thank you to Louise for writing such a strong, passionate story that really opened my eyes.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Only Ever Yours – Louise O’Neill

Published October 8, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful.

For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim.

Best friends Freida and Isabel are sure they’ll be chosen as companions – they are among the most highly rated girls in their year.

But as the intensity of final year takes hold, Isabel does the unthinkable and starts to put on weight. ..
And then, into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride.

Freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known. . .

What did I think?:

Oh my gosh, this book. There was a lot of buzz about Only Ever Yours on Twitter just before it came out and I really hoped when I came to read it that it didn’t fall prey to the dreaded “over-hype monster.” Luckily, I had absolutely nothing to worry about and this debut novel from the hugely talented Louise O’Neill is truly mind-blowing. It’s the kind of book you enjoy but not in the usual way that you would enjoy something. It’s a very uncomfortable piece of dystopian/speculative fiction that you can draw surprising (and horrifying) comparisons with the world we live in right now and a possible future existence.

In this alternative future, woman are now scientifically and genetically engineered to be as close to perfect as possible and their only function in life is for the service and pleasure of men. Groups of girls known as “eves,” are trained in special schools to fall into one of three categories: one (and the most desirable) to be a companion for a man i.e. bearing him children for life, two, to be a concubine and available purely to satisfy men’s sexual urges and three, to be a chastity who teach other eves but remain without a partner.

The school is absolutely brutal. Academic, it is not. In fact, being academic is actually a form of insult to these girls. They are taught merely how to be beautiful, how to look after a man and one of the most important things – how to remain slim and desirable. frieda and isabel are two of these girls, best friends but in fierce competition with each other and desperate to rank in the “top ten” of their final year which pretty much guarantees that they will become a companion. And no, grammar police, I didn’t make a mistake. The girls don’t even have capital letters to their names, that’s how worthless the life of a woman has become. However, when isabel begins to gain weight and the pressure cooker of so many girls together begins to explode, frieda must assess what’s most important, her best friend or her future?

This book was both hideous and amazing on so many levels. Hideous because of the issues it addresses, like self-esteem, bullying, eating disorders, objectification of women… the list goes on! Amazing because of the way it deals with them. Louise O’Neill puts a harsh and unforgiving spotlight onto a lot of real problems that both young girls and older women go through today and this honest, no holds barred exploration of these issues is both admirable and makes for an incredibly compelling and at times, nail-biting read. Be prepared to feel uneasy and disgusted by this narrative but if you’re anything like me, hugely relieved that we have a writer out there like this who’s prepared to speak about these kinds of things in a world where sadly so many women are still not equal.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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December 2015 – Chrissi Cupboard Month #4

Published December 19, 2015 by bibliobeth

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It’s December. And that means…. (drumroll please) it’s Chrissi Cupboard Month!

My lovely sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads gives me books on a regular basis, and as she reads at the speed of light I have had to acquire a cupboard in my bedroom purely for her books. Unfortunately, with all my other books and huge TBR pile, I’m not getting through them as fast as I’d like so I would like to dedicate the month of December to reading books purely from the Chrissi Cupboard. I will obviously be reading my short story every week and our Kid-Lit and Banned books for the month of December, but I’m hoping the majority of books will be from this cupboard. Here are the first ten I am planning to read and review:

Asking For It – Louise O’Neill

The Kiss Of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1) – Mary E. Pearson

Prisoner Of Night And Fog (Prisoner Of Night And Fog #1) – Anne Blankman

Double Cross (Noughts & Crosses #4) – Malorie Blackman

Perfect Ruin (The Internment Chronicles #1) – Lauren DeStefano

In Darkling Wood – Emma Carroll

The Impossible Knife Of Memory – Laurie Halse Anderson

The Good Girl – Mary Kubica

Pointe – Brandy Colbert

Queen Of Shadows (Throne Of Glass #4) – Sarah J. Maas

As usual, I’m carrying on with a couple of series, finishing one (the Malorie Blackman) and starting others! My other Chrissi Cupboard Months so far have been pretty strong but I think this one is the strongest yet. I’m most excited for Asking For It and carrying on the Throne of Glass series as I’m absolutely smitten with it, but I have a funny feeling that I’m going to enjoy the Mary E. Pearson book a lot more than expected from what Chrissi has been gushing about it. She knows my tastes pretty well and I trust her judgement! I’ve also loved what I’ve read from Emma Carroll so far (review for Frost Hollow Hall and The Girl Who Walked On Air coming soon) so I’m very excited to read In Darkling Wood. A brilliant month ahead, wouldn’t you agree?

The Second Young Adult Literary Convention (YALC) 2015

Published September 5, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Apologies for getting this post up a bit late but here’s what happened when my sister Chrissi Reads and I visited YALC for the second year!

YALC is the brain-child of previous Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, who was awarded an OBE for her services to children’s literature in 2008 and from the moment appointed has been incredibly passionate about getting young people to read.

The programme for 2015 involved exciting author talks, workshops, book signings, competitions and much, much more. If you’re a big YA fan, this is the one event you don’t want to miss out on. And for bloggers, it’s a brilliant way to meet your favourite authors (and perhaps even other bloggers finally face to face) scour the beautiful books on offer from their Waterstones partner and perhaps even meet one of your all-time favourite idols. Judy Blume and Patrick Ness, I’m talking about you!

This year, YALC was kind enough to add on an extra day and after making sure we definitely had three day tickets we toddled off to Olympia, London where it was being held this year alongside London Film and Comic Con. First of all, thank you so much YALC for the priority queue jumping! Alongside a bunch of Storm Troopers, Walking Dead fans covered in (fake) blood and many, MANY scantily clad women we entered the centre, making a bee-line for the YALC section, of course. We decided we weren’t going to attend any talks that day so enjoyed grabbing our free tote bag and noticing with delight that the Book Wall from last year had indeed returned!

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Oh yes. Happy times slouched on the bean bags or deck chairs recovering from all the YALC excitement and meeting up with blogger friends old and new. I think Saturday was probably our best day for talks, the first one we went to was YA: The next generation with Alice Oseman, Lucy Saxon, Helena Coggan and Taran Matharu, chaired by Samantha Shannon. It was a great opportunity to hear about the state of YA fiction right now and be introduced to some promising new talent. Before a spot of lunch we also attended the Being A Girl talk with Hayley Long, C J Daughtery, Holly Smale, Malorie Blackman and Laura Dockrill chaired by Anna James. The talk centred around strong female characters in YA (hooray!) and there’s nothing better than a bit of feminist girl power to get you in the mood for a bit more book hunting in the fabulous Waterstones book area.

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Carrie Hope Fletcher did a brilliant job of hosting the next talk: Carrie Hope Fletcher’s YALC book club with Malorie Blackman, Holly Smale and Samantha Shannon. The authors all talked about how they approach writing individually and some of their tips and advice for wanna-be authors was truly inspirational. Then came the talk I was looking forward to the most: Judy Blume and Patrick Ness in conversation!! Excuse me while I fan myself.

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Patrick was a fantastic interviewer and asked the questions everyone wanted to know. I was a huge Judy Blume fan when I was growing up and I came away feeling like I knew Judy Blume personally – she is such a sweetheart and really funny to boot. Patrick Ness is one of my most recent favourite authors and I was absolutely determined I was going to meet him and get my treasured copy of A Monster Calls signed.

Yes, it was time to join some signing queues. After a pitiful performance last year with NO books signed this year I swore was going to be different and spying a beautiful graphic novel of Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman I snapped it up and joined her queue. She was just as nice and down to earth as I had imagined her to be and although I was terribly starstruck I managed to string a couple of sentences together at least! I also managed to pin down the lovely Alexia Casale and she kindly signed my copy of House Of Windows, her second novel which I was very excited to read. After waiting for a little while, it was finally time to meet Queen Judy Blume to get my copy of her new novel, In the Unlikely Event signed. She was also really sweet and friendly even if I did make a bit of a fool of myself by dipping her a little curtsey as I approached the signing desk. (I didn’t mean to – it came out sub-consciously!)

Sunday dawned bright and sunny and we went to two talks, Mental health in YA with Matt Whyman, Brian Conaghan, Annabel Pitcher and Holly Bourne chaired by Imogen Russell Williams. This was a fantastic talk about a very important subject quite close to my heart and although we left the talk a bit overwhelmed, the authors did a great job of bringing mental health to the forefront. The second talk followed the very popular “sexy” panel at YALC 2014 – Bringing sexy back with Non Pratt, Louise O’Neill, Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison chaired by the wonderful James Dawson. This talk was just as laugh-out-loud funny and brutally honest as last year’s talk as the panel discussed the role of sex in YA novels. Oh my goodness, and James Dawson’s costume? It had to be seen to be believed!

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Believe me, the photo does not do it justice.

The other highlight of the day was finally managing to meet Patrick Ness and get my book signed. I even had to miss his talk, Sir Terry and me just to make sure I was in the signing queue. He was lovely and I know he spoke to me and I answered but for the life of me I couldn’t tell you what he said, I was in my own excited little world.

So, that’s it! YALC over for another year. We had a brilliant time and it was just as successful if not more so than last year. Thank you to all the organisers and authors for making it an event to remember.

Here is my swag!

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See you in 2016, YALC. I can’t wait already!

 

June 2015 – Chrissi Cupboard Month #3

Published June 1, 2015 by bibliobeth

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It’s June. And that means…. (drumroll please) it’s Chrissi Cupboard Month!

My lovely sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads gives me books on a regular basis, and as she reads at the speed of light I have had to acquire a cupboard in my bedroom purely for her books. Unfortunately, with all my other books and huge TBR pile, I’m not getting through them as fast as I’d like so I would like to dedicate the month of June to reading books purely from the Chrissi Cupboard. I will obviously be reading my short story every week and our Kid-Lit and Banned books for the month of June, but I’m hoping the majority of books will be from this cupboard. Here are the first ten I am planning to read and review:

Only Ever Yours – Louise O’Neill

Under My Skin – James Dawson

The Beloved – Alison Rattle

The Assassin’s Blade – Sarah J. Maas

Something Strange And Deadly – Susan Dennard

Cress – Marissa Meyer

The Giver – Lois Lowry

The Last Leaves Falling – Sarah Benwell

Checkmate – Malorie Blackman

Monsters Of Men – Patrick Ness

I’ve picked each of these books because they are ones that I’ve been wanting to get to for a while now. I am honestly looking forward to each and every one of them! Have you read any? What are your favourites? Let me know!