Friday, 3 March 2017

Book Review: Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill

Choose a own forever. 

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...

Only Ever Yours is an incredibly disturbing read. Focusing on a misogynistic society, where women are kept for their beauty and reproductive abilities; this novel distinctly reminds me of The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood. It is not, then, the book to read if you're after a happy book. Or, for that matter, if you're triggered by body image, eating disorders etc. Although the blurb goes some way to explaining what this book is about, it in no way prepares you for the darkness and intensity that is Only Ever Yours. 

Purely character driven, the story actually moves quite slowly; and takes place over six months, I think. This is the lead-up to the ceremony; where the girls are chosen as companions, concubines or chastity's. As the novel takes place purely inside of the school, it's limited. Think of it like a film; if you were to watch a film based purely in one location, you'd expect it to be boring, right? But Louise O'Neill does a fantastic job of describing every little detail of the school; from the fake gardens to the girl's rooms, and built in wardrobes. 

In fact, description is what makes this book outstanding. No detail is too small. The girl's schedules, their appearance, the boys. Attention to detail is this book's strong point. It's weakness, then? That it ends too soon. The story leads up to the ceremony, but the chapters after the ceremony are, in my opinion, out of character and too condensed. It all felt a little rushed. But it was hardly a bad ending; it tied up all loose ends, it didn't try to 'pretty up' the book with a happy ending, and you felt as if everyone got their just desserts. Especially Megan. God, I hated Megan. 

Strong characters, an original plot, and so much attention to detail that you can build the school inside your head; imagine every room. This is a five star read, that will haunt you long after you've turned the last page.

Rating: *****

What have you read recently? 

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