Only Ever Yours is written by the Irish author, Louise O’Neill, and is her second book, a concept I still can’t quite get my head around.
After seeing a review of this book on a blog, I bought it instantly. (Thank you kindle whisper!) Having been busy, I was pleased when I woke up one morning with the start of what seemed to be the flue, and took a day off work to recuperate before I got worse. It was the perfect opportunity to read and I pretty much devoured this book in one day.
“Choose a girl, to own forever”.
Even before you open this book, you know that despite the somewhat romantic title and the almost cute, nostalgic image of a barbie doll, (an image which grows disturbing and poignant the further you delve into the book) you are on edge; curious.
In her book, O’Neill manages to indirectly criticises misogyny in a very subtle, yet equally obvious way. The book follows the stories of a group of girls in their late teens, all designed to be perfect, all competing to be chosen by men. Centred around the somewhat loveable yet equally frustrating Freidia, you are introduced to the world she was born into in small doses, getting to know the people around her more and more with each encounter. We go along with her as her graduation date looms ever closer, a day which will determine the rest of her future
Gifted with the best genetics, they must strive to maintain the level of perfection that is expected of them, forever navigating the limbo between proper and promiscuous in a bid to be the most desired. And if they fail to live up to these high expectations? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out. Setting the book in what could be described as post-apocalyptic earth, O’Neill has presented the societal sexism present in everyday life in a way that is much removed from us by time, making it easier to swallow.
“Be good. Be Pretty. Be Chosen.”
Despite the romantic sentiment of the well chosen title, for me, this book was somewhat of a horror. Already in my every day life I feel the ever suffocating claws of sexism and have felt the burn of embarrassment and shame at the hands of not just men (sadly) but women in the past. In one book, never have so many of my fears and insecurities been laid so bare before me. Without the excuses our society willingly swallows, sexism and oppression are unapologetic factors of this new world, this future world. They are accepted and veneered.
At times, I found it hard to read. What if I had been born in a time when society unapologetically looked down 0n women; owned them ? What if the women in the past had not fought so hard for women’s rights? Would I be living similarly to Freidia? The thought is harrowing.
With many moments to make you cringe and hold your gut in disgust, scenes that make your heart ache and hold your breath, this book is will most certainly have you wanting more. Sprinkled with hard to choke down scenes, this ‘light read’ will have you guessing until the very end.