Title: Only Ever Yours
Author: Louise O’Neill
Publication Date: 3 July, 2014
Blurb via Amazon: 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 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…
My friend recommended this to me about a year ago and I just never got around to reading it. Then I began to read it earlier this week and to begin with I was intrigued. I was intrigued, but I was slightly confused as to what all the fuss was about. And then about sixty pages in I found myself crying in the middle of my English lesson. My friend who recommended the book to me happened to be sitting next to me at the time. She saw me crying and literally gave me an ‘I told you so’ look. I guess I asked for that. The fact that this was one of the best books I’ve ever read hit me like a ton of bricks. I was wrong to ever doubt you O’Neill.
I think that one of the best things about this book has to be the level of detail included. For example, all the names of the eves are the names of models, like cara and naomi (Cara Delevigne and Naomi Campbell) and the names of the Inheritants are the names of academics, like Darwin and Albert (Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein). Just this in itself says something about the society we live in. Right from the start, Louise is making us think about the world we live in. Another detail is the non-capitalisation of the eves names. This is obviously a statement of how they are not viewed as having value in the society they live in. I just eat this level of world-building and detail up in books.
The story had a good pace to it, the constant element of competition always keeping my interest and making me want to get to the end. The end, by the way is soul destroying and I literally stared at the last word of the book for ten minutes before going to sleep feeling like I was empty. This book deals with so many issues: drug abuse, domestic violence, discrimination of women, social stimulus. The idea of social stimulus has to be one of the most poignant things about this book, mainly because it is just an extreme version of what we are subjected to in our everyday lives now. I think the success of a dystopian novel is mostly valued on how scarily close it is to our own society. Multiple times throughout the book I actually had to put it down and assess the meaning of life and how terrible things are. It made me want to stop pretending that everything was okay, because newsflash: IT ISN’T. The societal pressures that the eves feel in their society are not that different to the ones people, particularly women feel in our society. This is so, so scary to me.
Most of the characters in this book I could not stand, but I think this was purposeful. Everyone seemed fake, especially megan (barf). I took this to be another statement from Louise about the materialism of our world. freida herself made me want to smash my head into a wall multiple times while reading. Her decisions were completely irrational to me and different to the ones I would have made. I had to keep reminding myself that she was probably only acting like this, because she did not know any different. She was manufactured to believe that women had to be a certain way. The fact that she was brainwashed is not her fault. I did not trust Darwin or any of the Inheritants from the start. The whole time I thought that he was too Prince Charming for the setting of the book and I was right. Just like the eves, Darwin was just out for the gratification of someone else, his father.
‘Only Ever Yours’ by Louise O’Neill is a poignant and harrowing story that will chew you up, spit you out and make you see the world in a different way (I mean that in the most positive way possible). This story will stay with me forever and probably influence the decisions I make for the rest of my life. Of course I am awarding this book 5/5 stars.