Only Ever Yours, Louise O’Neill

onyleveryoursIn 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. . .

Find the book on Goodreads.

In the discussions surrounding this book, there is always the inevitable mention of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.  One Goodreads reviewer even goes so far as to say that the stories are one and the same.  Now, I read The Handmaid’s Tale several years ago, so I can’t comment on that, but to me, Only Ever Yours read as a kind of sequel/companion novel hybrid that I really enjoyed overall.

That out of the way, let me tell you what I liked.  I liked the world building, it felt like O’Neill put a lot of thought into the ins and outs of the dystopian world she created.  A lot of things in the novel are exaggerated, but overall, the ideas that were presented in the novel rang true.  The abundance of pink, for example, the missing capitalisation from the female names, and the voices telling the girls over and over again to be nice, agreeable, and a “good girl”, etc.  And the comparison classes!  It’s kind of scary when you can easily see how these things are rooted in real life.

What I didn’t like was really only the odd random thing, like the abbreviations “chocco” for chocolate, “Chik-Chik” for chicken, etc.  I’m going to go ahead and guess that this is an example of the way in which things are dumbed down for women in the real world, and I can appreciate that, but it really grated on me.  There were also some things that I didn’t understand, like, if the girls’ appearance is so important, why bother giving them “fat girl” food options, anyway?  Though, of course, it does foster the tension and competitiveness between the girls.  Likewise, the ending.  I found a lot of the story to be predictable (which is fine) but that last “interaction” session?  I feel like there was a lot left unexplained, especially considering what happens next.  All in all though, it was a quick and interesting read that should probably be taught in schools.

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