BOOKS | Reviews
YOUNG ADULT LOUISE O’NEILL Asking For It (Quercus) ●●●●●
Louise O’Neill’s first novel, Only Ever Yours, shook up the YA scene so much that it was granted the rare accolade of a separate adult edition. Her new book, Asking For It, will surely follow suit.
Based loosely on the Steubenville High School rape case of 2012, Asking For It follows mean girl Emma O’Donovan after she’s had one too
many at a party one night. She blacks out; when she wakes up in pain, she can’t remember a thing that happened. However, recordings and photos of the events that took place have been circulated throughout her school and online. And she soon realises it won’t be possible to pretend that nothing happened.
The story unfolds with some triggering detail and a chilling lack of empathy from her family and community, showing exactly how tough it can be for a girl who doesn’t fit the mould of perfect victim.
Though the book doesn’t pull punches when it comes to
discussing Emma’s rape, the most devastating passages describe the way in which Emma, her friends and their mothers, speak about and to each other. In a book dealing with acts of violence and misogyny, it is surprising that the most sympathetic characters are Emma’s brother and her childhood friend Connor. The women in the novel seem to have no hope of seeing above the rising tide of hatred against women. Asking For It is both a brutal presentation of the internalised and institutionalised misogyny that affect women’s lives every day, and a difficult look at what happens when no one, not even yourself, really believes you deserve to be helped. (Sasha de Buyl) Out now.
TIME TRAVEL SE LISTER The Immortals (Old Street Publishing) ●●●●● YA FANTASY PATRICK NESS The Rest of Us Just Live Here (Walker Books) ●●●●●
FICTION TONI DAVIDSON The Alpine Casanovas (Freight) ●●●●● FICTION PATRICK DEWITT Undermajordomo Minor (Granta) ●●●●●
The concept of time travel is hardly unique in literature. SE Lister’s The Immortals, while interesting, does not particularly distinguish itself from other works on the subject, exploring the same themes witnessed time and again: identity, the notion of belonging, and the importance of a time period’s culture. When we meet Rosa, she is
frustrated that she cannot leave 1945, and Lister succeeds in portraying her exasperation, painting a vivid picture of the war and victory. Things soon change, however, and along with ‘time-gypsy’ Tommy, Rosa cannot seem to stay in a period long enough to call it home – that is, until she meets soldier Harding, who, it’s hoped, will be the key to Rosa staying put. As an adventure story, The Immortals
works well. Lister has created a fast- paced plot filled with strong characters and witty, energetic dialogue. Her style is charming, but the problem here is in the premise: everything feels familiar, and like Rosa, it leaves you wanting to be taken somewhere entirely new. (Rebecca Monks) Out Thu 17 Sep.
54 THE LIST 3 Sep–5 Nov 2015
From Buffy to The Hunger Games, ‘chosen one’ tales predominate fantasy fiction. Patrick Ness’ latest is an antidote to this vein of storytelling, and a charming one at that. Mikey’s an ‘ordinary’ guy at a high
school with a few extraordinary students. All he, his sister and their best friends want to do is get through their last few months and graduate, free of drama. But as weird lights begin to shine from the sky, and dead animals come back to life, the Apocalypse looks disarmingly close.
The novel’s Buffy-like events are peripheral to Mikey’s tale. Instead, it focuses on his neglectful parents, his love for his sisters, his yearning after one best friend and his fear of growing distant from the other after high school. Just as with More Than This and
his acclaimed Chaos Walking trilogy, Ness shows he’s a master at creating nuanced, rounded male protagonists and captivating tales with realistic young characters. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is an excellent addition to his canon. (Yasmin Sulaiman) Out now.
Dual protagonists, Amerasian Beat and Eurasian Quyn, live in different countries but share a common heritage – both half Vietnamese, neither was raised by their Vietnamese parents or knows their mother tongue. Beat is a disillusioned actor, typecast in generic Asian roles and living a debauched lifestyle until he decides to fake his own death and isolate himself in a mountain chalet. Raised in a barn, Quyn lives quietly in the mountains, a caretaker to wealthy holiday retreats.
The story flashes through their pasts, from youngsters aware of their different appearance, to adults who feel like tourists to their own culture. Davidson skillfully creates an exploration of what happens to identity when war fragments a race across the globe.
An ambitious yet lost young Lucien (Lucy) Minor leaves his humble and depressing beginnings in Bury, to the enticing position of undermajordomo in the Castle Von Aux. Befriending a pair of enigmatic thieves, and falling for a local village lass, he soon settles into a quirky life in the castle and its surrounding village. Part bildungsroman, part gothic
fairytale, Undermajordomo Minor is hard to pigeonhole. Charming in its uniqueness, at times it feels like a Wes Anderson creation, with eccentric, characters behaving awfully, and wordy chapter titles such as ‘The location, apprehension and return to normality of the Baron’. But it’s difficult to find a character, or even an overarching theme, to cling on to.
The prose is lyrical. Terse phrases Maybe this was DeWitt’s intention
capture the beauty of the mountains, the commotion of Saigon and the hedonism of parties, while the men’s outlooks favour the pragmatic. As their worlds hurtle towards each other Davidson builds the tension into a blistering finale. (Rowena McIntosh) Out Mon 14 Sep. – to give the impression of a pastoral piece of theatre disguised as a novel. If you’re a fan of Brechtian tragicomedy, it will bring as much pleasure as DeWitt’s previous Booker-shortlisted endeavour, The Sisters Brothers, a much more intimate and melancholy affair. (Jessica Rodgers) Out now.