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Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill - Review

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Where did I get it? I bought it this time last year. I'm not sure why, but it must have appealed to me!

What's it about? It's a dystopian novel that is supposed to be a cross between Mean Girls and The Handmaid's Tale, both of which are things I love so I  was looking forward to reading this. It is really difficult to talk about and review, though, so bear with me. 

In this world, eves are created girls, created for the men of the future. Ten boys were born in one year, so thirty eves were created for them. Ten will become their companions - basically their wives, the people who will raise their sons. (It's never explained if the women could conceive daughters, but my thinking is that those daughters would be aborted and only sons be allowed to be born). Several more of the girls will become concubines - women that the men will visit for sex. Some of the rest will become chastities, who will teach the next generations of eves within their school. 

So, into this, comes freida, our heroine. All the girls' names are given in lower case, which goes a long way towards showing how lower they are as humans. She's about to start her last year of school, aged sixteen, at the end of which she'll get the designation for the rest of her life. Her best friend, isabel, has been ranked #1 of their class for ages. Every day they have to upload photos of themselves and are never allowed to let their beauty drop. freida has always ranked highly, but isabel is pulling away from her and megan, isabel's rival, manages to get to #1. 

Eventually, the eves meet the boys who will be selecting them and that's when everything truly goes bad. 

I don't want to say too much more about the plot, but I do think that all the elements of a great dystopia are here. The reader recognises so much about what the girls do on a daily basis - they upload videos, they rate each other in a hot-or-not kind of way, they scrutinise each other's appearances and food choices. The author takes this and turns it up to the nth degree. The world is scary and unknown. The novel is interesting and scary and I liked freida a lot.

However, I also found it really difficult to read. I want to TRIGGER WARN for, like, everything. I'm not someone who is particularly shy or uneasy about my body, but the stuff about weight was incredibly depressing and triggering. I don't want to read this book again, for sure. I loved the ending and I'm glad I persevered, but if you start reading it and it's too much for you, then please, take care of yourself and don't finish it. That's more important than a book, okay?

What age range is it for? 16+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No and in fact trigger warning here too 
Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, which is why the different covers of this book sort of jar. There's definitely a hierarchy within the eves where white/blonde ones are more highly rated. freida is not white - it doesn't say exactly what she looks like, but she has dark skin.
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No
Is there any sex stuff? Yes, take care of yourself here
Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, freida can't sleep and is given something called SleepSound and its effects are talked about quite a lot
Is there any talk of death? Yes, some. Trigger warning.
Are there swear words? No
Would I recommend the book? Yes, but please do make sure you're in a safe place to read it. 
How many stars? Six out of ten. It isn't badly written and I did deeply care about freida, but I found the whole thing very shocking and hard to read. 
Where is the book going now? I'll keep it - I took it to YALC and Louise signed it for me, so I want to keep it :)

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