Monday, 27 July 2015
Only Ever Yours- Louise O'Neill
eves are designed, not made.
The School trains them to be pretty.
The School trains them to be good.
The School trains them to Always be Willing.
All their lives, the eves have been waiting.
Now, they are ready for the outside world.
companion . . . concubine . . . chastity.
Only the best will be chosen.
And only the Men decide.
Every so often a book comes along that blows your mind. Only Ever Yours is one of those books.
I'm writing this review within an hour of finishing the book. That's not something I usually do, but I feel compelled to, because it's got so deeply under my skin. I'm trying to think of the best way to describe it and the only thing I can come up with is 'chilling'. Vagenda's quote on the cover of 'Mean Girls meets The Handmaid's Tale' is pretty spot on as a description of the content.
The story revolves around sixteen year old girl (eve) frieda (lack of capital initial is intentional!) Locked away in an all female school, eves are trained to be compliant and good. They must stay within their target weight range or they will be punished, because to be fat is to be repulsive. They must never cry. They must be always be willing. eves know that by the end of the year their future lives will be decided as they are selected into one of the thirds- companion, concubine or chastity. Their fate is to be decided by the Inheritants, a group of ten sixteen year old boys who will choose their companions from the cohort of eves. The whole book focusses on the build up to this selection day from inside the school.
I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy Only Ever Yours because although I've read and enjoyed dystopian fiction before, it isn't generally one of my preferred genres. However, O' Neill is such a fantastic storyteller with the capacity to paint hideously vivid pictures through her words- I was captivated. Gripped with horror and intrigue as I turned the pages, I greedily devoured every delicious word.
I loved the mystery surrounding isabel, frieda's former best friend and megan, the ultra competitive superbitch had me pantomime hissing throughout. Honestly, she's the epitome of everything I dislike and her character made me determined to become an even more of a staunch feminist than I already am! And when the #1 Inheritant Darwin is introduced and the girls are vying for his attention- urgh- I was taken right back to the pain caused by adolescent lust and the overwhelming desire to be seen as attractive.
The relationships between the eves were so very believable- the two-faced one-up(wo)manship in the book is the same as it is in many a school, office, club or playground at pick-up time. It is almost a warning, a brilliant beacon of a warning, of what could happen to women in a world where men have all the power. The irony that we live in a world where men still do have the majority of power is not lost on me. Although I highly doubt the world in Only Ever Yours is what's in store for our future, it could be. And that's what's scary, hard-hitting and emotive about this book.
Originally aimed at a teen market, I can absolutely see why Quercus have repackaged this for an adult audience too. It's necessary, and a book which deserves to be noticed for it's brave content, original premise and utterly frightening plot.
From the nasty, vicious backbiting of the first chapters through to the disturbing bitter end, Only Ever Yours had me hooked.
It's one of the best books I've ever read, and I've read a lot. Everyone needs to read it. So, what are you waiting for?
Only Ever Yours is out now, published by Quercus.
With thanks to the publisher Quercus, who provided me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.