Title: Only Ever Yours
Author: Louise O’Neill
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Quercus Books
Publication Date: 30th June 2014
Rating: 2/5 stars
freida and isabel have been best friends their whole lives.
Now, aged sixteen and in their final year at the School, they expect to be selected as companions – wives to wealthy and powerful men. The alternative – life as a concubine – is too horrible to contemplate.
But as the intensity of the final year takes hold, the pressure to remain perfect becomes almost unbearable. isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her beauty – her only asset – in peril.
And then, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride.
frieda must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known …
A dystopian story were women (eves) are created, not born. Genetically perfect, the eves are raised in schools, taught only how to please men. Beauty is their first duty, and to be fat is the greatest sin. Thirty girls are created for ten men. Each young man selects his wife, a companion, and the other twenty are relegated either to the caste of concubines (self-explanatory) or chastities (teachers at the school).
frieda is the novel’s protagonist. I didn’t find her particularly likeable. In fact, she was downright annoying. Her best friend, isabel, has become withdrawn, and frieda is confused. She dwells on this a lot, and debates how she can be a better friend, but never actually follows through.
The most interesting character in the book is isabel (even if she is a bit too perfect!), but as frieda and she drift apart, we see less of isabel and the story becomes a bit tedious. The other eves read a bit like the cast of Mean Girls and are all fairly stock characters.
In that moment I loved her for her basic decency. And I hated her too. Because once again, without even trying, she was better than I was.
I did like that the eves’ names weren’t capitalised. I thought it was an incredibly interesting technique to portray the inferiority of women – their objectification – in this society. To heighten this, the male characters’ names are given a capital.
It turned a bit Bachelor-esque when the boys arrived. Each girl competed for the boys’ attention in group dates. Like the show, everything was very contrived, and the girls became very bitchy. The men were all total tools as well. There was none of the fun which Kiera Cass injected into The Selection.
As the story’s conflict intensified, I got incredibly confused. A number of events occurred, causing frieda’s future to be completely compromised. However, it didn’t make any sense. By the end, I was so disconnected from the story and the characters, I was overjoyed that it was finished!
This story had potential, but unfortunately fell very flat. O’Neill’s next book, Asking for It, looks better, if a little risky. There is also the small matter of the similar cover – she really has a thing about barbie-fying women! However, my interest has been piqued. I can only hope that her story flow has improved.
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