Author: Louise O’Neil
Description from Goodreads:
In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become ‘companions’, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful.
For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim.
Best friends frieda and isabel are sure they’ll be chosen as companions – they are among the most highly rated girls in their year.
But as the intensity of final year takes hold, isabel does the unthinkable and starts to put on weight…
And then, into the sealed female environment, 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…
Well, I don’t think a book’s left me feeling this way in quite a long time (not since The Winner’s Crime, to be precise). I’ve been blown away by Louise O’Neil’s dystopian masterpiece. I’m in awe of the story telling and world building, the plot decisions she made. I spent most of my time reading Only Ever Yours with my jaw hanging slack, forming an o of astonishment and wonder. There are so many different elements I loved I don’t know where to begin.
Part of the reason I loved this book so much is that it was so abundantly clear just how thought out everything was, just how much time and consideration had gone into the book. From the female’s names being in lowercase, to the ‘rainbow’ gene. It was these small details that really took Only Ever Yours from a pretty damn good dystopian novel to something else entirely.
In this world, ruled by the Father, women are created purely for men, for marriage, enjoyment or education of the younger females. They have no real valueless society, and they certainly have no say or importance. It was such a scary alternative I would never whish to encounter, I felt exceedingly sorry for these girls, whose lives are determined by a group of young boys. The girls, or eves as they are called, have always been taught that the men are superior, that they must follow man’s command and do whatever he wishes. Ultimately, they have no control over their lives or bodies, they are terminated at forty, and adultery is punishable by death (and something else which is just unimaginable). Although that adultery rule? Yeah doesn’t apply to the men, not when they have a multitude of concubines to choose from. I suppose you could say I was outraged at this world, where women are subhuman, have no rights and ultimate purpose in life is to please man. I will not be signing up, thank you very much. But that outrage, the wonder and utter shock, that’s part of why I loved the book oh so much, because it conjured up a world I would before have never fathomed to imagine. O’Neil made it seem so real, especially towards the latter third of the book, I was very vocal in my reactions to what went down, there was more than ‘WHAT?!’ and ‘NO!!’
I love that throughout the novel females were not distinguished with an upper case letter at the beginning of their names, it was a small little thing that really illustrated the vast difference between the males and females, they even have design numbers for crying out loud!
I suppose I should discuss the plot, which in my opinion took more than a few twists and turns. freida is our protagonist, but whether or not she’s likeable is a different matter entirely. All freida wants is to marry a man and have his sons. She strives to fit in and please others. Meanwhile her best friend is slowly self-destructing, she’s jeopardising her future, and we all know what happens to girls who break the rules, they get sent Underground. freida works so hard to fit in with the other girls to get megan (ugh) to like her and accept her as a friend. She’s actually pretty desperate for her friendship and it got the point I had to put the book down and walk away before I threw the book across the room in frustration. She’s self absorbed, selfish, shallow and we see her slowly unravel. isabel flitted in and out of the story, not a constant presence but always within speculation. I found her so intriguing, I would read a book from her perspective happily, she’s aloof and mysterious. And ultimately she is lovely and lovable.
One character who certainly isn’t lovable is chastity-ruth. Excuse my French, but what a bitch. I didn’t like her from the get go, and when she let rip she showed her true nasty. But what I did gain from chastity-ruth was a new perspective on freida, she revealed another side which was always there, lurking behind the pity and hope and longing for it all to turn out rosie.
During their last year at the School, the eves meet the Inheritants, the boys who will choose the wives, and who shall become concubines. I felt the stirring of a ship when Darwin met freida, and honestly I loved how it all planned out. Maybe I didn’t expect everything that happened along the way, but ultimately I am happy with how it ended.
I am still as I write this review undecided with how I feel about freida, I think that I will be mulling this one over for a long time to come. Only Ever Yours stood out to me as brilliant, I loved and now I’m on the look for more Louise O’Neil.
Have you read Only Ever Yours? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
‘Only Ever Yours’ by Louise O’Neil