Book Review: Only Ever Yours

Tuesday 10 January 2017 by

 

Only Ever Yours, YA, Book, Reading, Louise O'Neill, Quercus

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

Published by Quercus

The bestselling novel about beauty, body image and betrayal

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 . . . or chastity

Only the best will be chosen.

And only the Men decide.

~*~

Louise O’Neill’s multi award winning debut novel is a strikingly evocative look at self-image and the importance society places on beauty that will at once break your heart, provoke discussion, and terrify you.

In the dystopian world of Only Ever Yours, women no longer come into the world by natural means, instead they are created. Created to be perfect, and called eves. The eves have three possible outcomes for their lives; companion, concubine or chastity. These outcomes are decided by the future leading men of society, as such the eves spend their time learning and striving to be perfect in order to accomplish the ultimate goal of being chosen as a companion.

Teenager frieda is just months away from her Ceremony and we follow her as she navigates her path towards it juggling her pursuit of perfection, social stature, her closest friendship, as well as the pull between wanting her own identity and wishing to please others. All of that may sound rather teeny but there is so much more to this novel than that, there’s a reason that this YA novel has crossed over to become an all-round bestseller. O’Neill shows herself to be a rather adept writer, addressing social issues without ever bashing readers over the head with her message. O’Neill’s voice comes as an undercurrent, taking you on one journey whilst simultaneously taking you on another. Which seems to be exactly her point. Her comments on the culture of beauty are frankly terrifying – aspects of the novel that appear futuristic are on second glance all too familiar to anyone who has read a women’s monthly glossy in recent years. (I couldn’t help but find it wonderfully ironic that the leading cover quote on my copy came from a leading women’s magazine.)

O’Neill’s writing really is quite something; her command over her prose, structure, and even punctuation and capitalisation create a vivid and absorbing world that pulls you in and envelopes you in its ways. O’Neill’s decision not to use capitalisation when referencing female characters is an immediately effective device that makes it clear that females are lesser beings, draws you into the characters’ mindsets and leads to you questioning many things. This is without doubt one of the most thought provoking novels I have read in some time, I had only reached around page 170 before I was recommending it to others. Whilst it certainly deals with feminist issues I feel it would be a disservice to simply class it as a feminist novel, it’s so thought provoking that it is for everyone. It is an incredibly socially relevant book that you can’t help but pass on, and should be thrust into the hands of all teenagers. If this doesn’t one day make it on to curriculum lists I’ll be shocked. Plus, that ending? Wow.

Nerissa is a writer, mummy and rather proud geek living in the countryside. In between playtime, cuddles and fun times she loves to read, knit, bake and write Young Adult and children’s fiction.

 

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