Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

untitledHow did I get the book? StorytellersInc Book Club

Genre: Dystopian

Synopsis: frieda and isabel have been best friends their whole lives.

Now, aged sixteen and in their final year at the School, they expect to be selected as companions – wives to wealthy and powerful men. The alternative – life as a concubine – is too horrible to contemplate.

But as the intensity of the final year takes hold, the pressure to remain perfect becomes almost unbearable. isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her beauty – her only asset – in peril.

And then, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride.

frieda must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known…

Review: I don’t know how to review this book. I don’t know what I think of this book, I don’t even know if I like this book. I just… don’t know.

Only Ever Yours won the YA Book Prize 2015, Debut Book of the Year #CBIBookAwards and I’m sure a small boatload of others. These were just the two I was aware of. Louise O’Neill chilling debut about a society that breeds perfect girls as wives and concubines for the men has been on my radar for months. I wanted to read it and I am glad I read it. It means I get to talk about it.

My advice: if you haven’t read Only Ever Yours yet, make sure you read it with a friend or check you know someone who has. You are going to want to talk about this book – a lot. This is good, I like discussion books.

What I can’t decide is;
what am I supposed to take away from Only Ever Yours?

Fear? The objectification, the need to be perfect… we have so much that already. It’s not like this world Louise O’Neill has crafted is that far-fetched. Hate? For the men that oppress these women? What about the women themselves for submitting, or the horrible ‘games’ they play to succeed at being chosen by the men?

I’m not a reader that requires happy endings. Books that I treasure dearly have made my heart hurt, made me question things, made me cry, but I’ve always finished the last page with a feeling that I’ve gained something. Only Ever Yours didn’t have that effect. Sometimes I wanted to give up. I didn’t care about frieda or isabel. I finished the book feeling empty, deflated and depressed at this world I’d inhabited for nearly 400 pages.

The story is repetitive, the book feels long and you’re in this endless circle of frieda’s hunt for the perfection that isn’t there. When you sit back to think about it this is actually really clever. frieda’s world is repetitive and all those messages she gets bombarded with begin to filter through to the reader. Normally I read at lunchtime, I couldn’t do that with Only Ever Yours because food is evil, fat is bad, in that world. (This book need serious trigger warnings.)

Only Ever Yours is true horror and you also can’t seem to escape it. It pulls you back and shreds you. I can’t say I enjoyed this book. As I wrote at the beginning – I just don’t know what I feel. I’m not sure I’ll ever really make up my mind or if this review particularly made sense but I can’t stop thinking about it.

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2 thoughts on “Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

  1. I felt very mixed with this book as well, but I do think it was well written and incredibly clever. I think I loved it, but saying that confused me.

  2. I’m still to read this book but i read your review on Goodreads and was really impressed by the effort you’ve made to think about the book and describe your feelings honestly. If i was the author i’d be very happy with this review! And i’ve nudged Only Ever Yours to the top of my to be read list.

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