Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

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I seem to be on a bit of a roll with feminist inspired novels recently. I was introduced to my latest read, Only Ever Yours by this article from the author of said novel, Louise O’Neill.

Only Ever Yours is a dark tale of a dystopian world in which “eves” are designed in order to satisfy the reproductive and sexual needs of the “inheritants”.

Its vaguely the premise of The Handmaid’s Tale with a heavy dollop of the bitchiness of Mean Girls.  If you haven’t experienced these classics, picture an oppressive patriarchal society.  Women’s rights are limited to the maintenance of their looks and/ or wombs, while an expiration date with a disturbing finality hangs over them.

O’Neill really captures the voice of the insecure teenager, trapped in an image obsessed world.  Where the winner never gets there by being a nice or considerate person.  Selfishness and vanity prevails.  Any hint of intelligence or doubt will render you useless in this world and get you thrown on the pyre. Literally.  Because girls are meant to be seen, never heard.  And not all girls. Just the perfect ones.  All the rest will be hidden.  Sounds familiar, no?

We see the entire story unfold through one eve’s perspective.  I don’t usually enjoy novels with a sole narrator.  I like to hear other characters’ voices and see the story from different angles.  However, I don’t think this novel would have worked any other way.  Through Frieda’s solitary voice, O’Neill channels the isolation and uncertainty that all of the eves must have felt.

Only Ever Yours has been billed as a YA novel. Again, not something that would usually attract me to a story.  But I’m so glad I read it.  The only reasons I can think of for it being a YA novel is that the protagonist is a teenage girl, and it is an easy read.  But otherwise, the themes are very relevant no matter what age/gender you are.  The implications presented in this book are very dark and scarier still, not all that unfamiliar.

As well as the whole production of eves as men-pleasin’ objects, Only Ever Yours explores friendship and rivalry.  I think most of us can testify to the fact that teenage friendships can be toxic, particularly within a group of girls.  It might be well into your twenties before you can shake off a venomous friendship.  The eves however do not have this luxury.  Just as with their bodies, the eves have no say in their social standing. This includes being victims of degradation and humility from all angles.

On the whole, I like this book.  But I did want a bit more from it.  Maybe to see a little more of the world that O’Neill had created outside of Frieda’s confined parameters.  I’d really like to see a sequel based on the life of an inheritant, just to get another perspective on the story.  Because, like all good feminist writing, Only Ever Yours highlights the pressure put on men, as well as women, to perform in a certain way in society.

Only Every Yours is available in real life bookshops as well as online for your electronical reading device.

Let me know what you think!

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