Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill
Genre: Feminist, Dystopian
Published by: Quercus
Where to Find: Goodreads | Amazon
‘Only Ever Yours’ was my first book of this genre, for the YA market. I think the only similar style think I’ve read is ‘Volpone’ by Ben Jonson, and that was for my English Lit course. I say the books are similar because they’re both satires, critiquing society in a way that isn’t overtly saying this is wrong. ‘Only Ever Yours’ was obviously written from a feminist perspective (I don’t know how this book could have been written any other way) and dealt with issues of materialism, body image, the objectification of women and female homosexuality. Overall, the five different ‘sections’ of the book all seemed very different, and I found it difficult to believe the ending was the same book as the beginning.
‘Only Every Yours’ is different from any other ‘dystopian’ style book because Frieda, the main character, doesn’t actually manage to break the society she lives in. She’s 100% subject to it, and can do nothing to change that, and in a way, that’s what gave this book a scarier feel than ‘The Hunger Games’.
Frieda and Isabel and all the other teenage girls were pretty much stereotypes. They cared only about their appearance, weight and body shape that it completely consumed their lives. The concept of the book was that girls are bred for male pleasure and live only to serve the opposite gender, be it as a wife or a ‘whore’. Frieda was clingy and lacked any sort of self-esteem. There were moments when I thought she was going to come to her senses and realise that Megan, the most popular girl was a horrible witch, but she didn’t. Even though she was dealing with such a difficult situation, her appearance and ‘ranking’ on that appearance inhibited her from being emotionally strong and likeable. I did not like her as a protagonist.
Again, similar to Frieda’s personality, her relationship with Darwin seemed like it was going to go somewhere, and help change the world. But then, things quickly spiralled out of control. She was too interested in being popular than in being herself.
She also neglected to have any backbone and stand up for Isabel, her best friend, and potential lover (?) I didn’t really understand the full extent of their relationship as nothing was explicitly explained, but I had a feeling there was more than just friendship between them.
I felt completely lost by the end of the book. Shocked, and lost. When I started the book, I had no idea where it was going, and I still don’t think I understand the resolution. The different roles of the girls, being a companion, concubine, or chastity were never fully explained. I didn’t understand what ‘going Underground’ met either. It felt like the world was half build.
I also couldn’t figure out what O’Neill’s message was meant to be. Was it against obsession over appearance? Was it about ‘free love’? Was it about the liberation of females as supposedly ‘inferior’ to males? Perhaps it was all these things, but I didn’t find myself pondering anything truly profound when I turned the final page.
Overall, I’d give ‘Only Ever Yours’ 2 stars. I was intrigued by the concept, but was expecting something a little less superficial. Something with a more grounding message. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, I read it in two sittings because it was incredibly hard to put down. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for something completely different, and that challenges a reality we live in now.