Title: Only Ever Yours
Author: Louise O’Neill
Format: paperback, 400 pages
Publication Details: July 3rd 2014 by Quercus
Genre(s): YA; Sci-Fi/Dystopian
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it.
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 Freida 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 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. . .
I’d heard so much about this book last year – nearly all of it good – so I was eager to make it a priority in 2016. But quite honestly, I’m not sure what I thought about it.
Only Ever Yours is a novel that throws out A LOT of questions. I imagine that its aim is to make you question the world O’Neill has built and compare it to our own; to make you wonder if this horrifying vision of the future could ever come true… but for me, it was too unbelievable to get me asking these questions.
In O’Neill’s portrayal of the future, girls are bred rather than born, where they grow up in schools run by ‘chastities’ and are ‘trained’ how to be the perfect woman. They are all beautifully designed, they have a target weight they mustn’t lose sight of, and emotions or outbursts are seen as unattractive and are punishable.
Freida and her so-called friends are in their last year at school which means their whole manufactured lives have been building up to this moment. The Inheritants (the boys) have come to meet them and they will decide the girls’ futures. The three possible outcomes being companions, concubines, or chastities. Quite frankly, each option sounds pretty horrific to me, but of course, they know no different. Becoming a companion is what nearly all of the girls long for.
Argh! There’s too much I want to talk about with this book, but firtstly let me say that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Lots of testimonials say something along the lines of ‘a horrific vision of a future that could easily come true’, and I think the reason I didn’t love the book is because I don’t believe that for a second.
I mean, I know I’m coming at this book from the perspective of someone who has grown-up in freedom with very little amount of prejudice and inequality – but for me, as a vision of the future it just wasn’t believable. I feel like we’re moving further away from what this book is portraying than towards it. Women are no longer supposed to be perfect, to serve men, to solely be the child bearers…are they? Hasn’t society already come a long way in making that future implausible?
And the same goes for the gay rights – or lack of- in this book. ‘Aberrants’ (gays) have been extinguished by pinpointing the ‘gay gene’ and destroying it somehow. Again, I’m fortunate to come from somewhere where gay rights have come a long, long way in a short space of time, and yeah there’s still further to go before equality is at 100%, but I can’t imagine a future where this would happen, a past perhaps – that I would believe.
I was also really disappointed at how slowly the book moved along. It took so long for it to get to the ceremony and not much was happening in the mean time! And when the book finally did start to wrap-up it was an anti-climax.
I was hoping and praying that at some point Freida and Isabel would either discover that there is an outside world in which life is not like this. That they had somehow been imprisoned and fooled into believing that they were bred not born and there is nothing else but there is. OR that they would start some sort of rebellion…but no. Rage.
Maybe that’s just the Hunger Games generation in me. Maybe I’m completely missing the point? IDK. I am glad I read it, and if this rant makes it sound like I hated it, I didn’t! I just thought it would be…more. Or perhaps I was just victim to the hype-monster again. Who knows!