This book has left me beyond speechless. This is the story of one girl. Emma O’Donovan lives in a small town in Ireland. Every knows every one else, and naturally their business. They support each other and look after each other. It’s a beautiful summer until one night, there’s a party. The events of that night break and haunt Emma and spilt the town in two. This novel is a reflection of all the darkness in our society, the unspoken things, the injustice under our noses.
I will never be able to do this book justice. The best I can do is say it is the social media generation’s version of 1984. However, the situation is very real. I say 1984 because of the ending and the way it made me feel. I felt angry and I felt disgusted. It’s worth noting that you should feel these things. It made me feel dirty, I shared the character’s pain. Emma doesn’t remember what happened that night and has to fit the pieces together with the help of social media. More of a curse than a blessing. She repeats phrases and insults to herself; talks of pink flesh and the shame. The language of the book crawls under your skin and refuses to wash away.
Emma is a complex character, I identified with her greatly and empathised with her, but I couldn’t feel sympathy for her. As a reader, that’s a strange situation to be in. My heart wept for Emma’s brother Bryan and her neighbour Connor, but with Emma… she’s a typical teenager. Her friendships and relationships are superficial and she aspires to be beautiful and rich. She is a product of celebrity saturated media culture. This is the start of very important conversations we need to be having. Louise O’Neill has taken a hot topic and woven it beautifully into a work of fiction.