Published by Quercus on May 12, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopia, Science Fiction, Feminism
Pages: 406 Format: Hardcover Source: Library
Where women are created for the pleasure of men, beauty is the first duty of every girl. In Louise O’Neill’s world of Only Every Yours women are no longer born naturally, girls (called “eves”) are raised in Schools and trained in the arts of pleasing men until they come of age. Freida and Isabel are best friends. Now, aged sixteen and in their final year, they expect to be selected as companions–wives to powerful men. All they have to do is ensure they stay in the top ten beautiful girls in their year. The alternatives–life as a concubine, or a chastity (teaching endless generations of girls)–are too horrible to contemplate.
But as the intensity of final year takes hold, the pressure to be perfect mounts. Isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her beauty–her only asset–in peril. 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.
Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill is the story of Freida, Isabel, and their sisters as they approach a ceremony that will determine their role in society for the rest of their short lives. It explores this dystopian future where women are created and raised for men and how these girls deal with a life they have no control over. Only Ever Yours is a riveting story from start to finish and it blew me away.
First, I want to say what a powerful book Only Ever Yours was. Louise O’Neill’s writing is outstanding. I was thoroughly impressed with how well she handled the material and how straight to the point it was. She lays it all out in this book and it certainly gets the message across. It’s blunt but like the good kind of blunt where it stays with you for a very long time. I often find dystopias as commentaries on our failings as a society rather than some future formed from apocalyptic tragedies. O’Neill asks us to look closer at our own world even if we don’t like what we find there.
There were a lot of ideas in this book that stood out to me. The way we turn on each other so quickly, scrambling over one another to be the best. How quickly we turn on each other and cut down anyone in our path. The way we are kind to people’s faces but then talk behind their backs. The desire for approval and how we do anything for it. The need to be seen and heard. The constant pressure from all sides even from yourself. The competition in everyday life. The stark societal belief that a woman has her place and that it is her whole life. That was a lot of stream of conscious but it makes a point.
The reality of Only Every Yours is terrifying and yet so important. I absolutely loved this book for its message and how well it is portrayed. I want to force everyone to read this but realize it will be triggering for those who struggle with eating disorders and body image. I would still recommend this to everyone but each person should judge what they are capable of dealing with.
- All I can see are dark circles under my eyes, a gray pallor like a dusting of ashes over my face. The hallmarks of too many nights spent burrowing a hole in my mattress, tossing and turning, yearning to join the perfectly synchronized breathing of my sisters. I can hear them now, sucking artificial heat into their lungs greedily, oblivious to me, lying in my cot, buzzing like an exposed wire.
- The infamous “girl Graves,” thousands of unwanted daughters disposed of in an ever expanding hole, their heads crushing against each other like broken china dolls. Drugstores with shelves upon shelves stacked with gender-specific fertility drugs, as easy to buy as chewing gum. And the body learned. It learned that a female baby was an invader, come to steal her mother’s beauty. A female baby was dangerous.
- We have undertaken this task every Friday since our first Comparison Studies class in 4th year; two different victims each time. I always start off wanting to be kind, but somehow, once I start speaking too, I can’t stop. I guess it does sort of make me feel better, at the time, a faint feeling of superiority swelling inside me like a balloon, but afterward my tongue feels bitter, like a hole has burned through it.
- They have told us that in order to succeed we need to be good girls, we need to follow the rules, we need to look pretty and speak nicely and be pleasant.
- If you want to be a companion, you won’t have sex before marriage. No one wants a girl that puts out before marriage, except that they sometimes do want a girl that puts out before marriage, but only if she’s going to be a concubine. It all depends on what type of girl you are. And we can’t be sure what type of girl that is until we are told by the men at the Ceremony.
Have you read Only Ever Yours? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!