Caroline’s Choice: Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

Hi,
my name is Caroline.  As a Children’s Literature student, I have a
particular interest in YA fiction, which is a relatively new genre in
this field.  Each month I will be reviewing one YA title chosen from a
selection of five by our team.  So, on with this month’s choice – Only
Ever Yours
by Louise O’Neill

Louise O’Neill is a young Irish author and this, her debut book, has already received high praise and critical acclaim from all quarters.  Since publication, it has won the first Bookseller YA Book Prize and Newcomer of the Year at the 2014 Irish Book Awards.  And quite rightly so.  I have never read anything like this before and thoroughly enjoyed O’Neill adaptation of the high school genre blended with the science-ficiton genre.  This is a fresh, visceral look at femininity and the fragility of self-esteem in both young and adult women delivered with a scathing and satirical edge.

Set in a dystopian futurescape following a worldwide catastrophe, men
rule the world and women are no longer born, but rather designed.  This
story follows the journey of Frieda and the other eves, who, at
sixteen, are in their final year at school.  Here, as
the pressure to be perfect mounts and the girls prepare for adulthood,
Frieda is desperate to be chosen as a companion and to do so, must be ranked in the top ten.  Companions go onto become the perfect wife for
powerful and wealthy men, living to serve them and produce sons until they too old (at just 40 years of age!), or too dated when they’re sent to the pyre.  The alternatives – concubine or chastity are
too awful for Frieda and her friends to contemplate, although as the boys are introduced to the schoolgirls and the “Heavenly Seventy” sessions begin, clear lines are drawn.  However, this desperation forces Freida to
make terrible choices with life- changing consequences.  Isobel, her life-long friend becomes more and more distant whilst jeopardising the very thing she was designed for – her beauty and perfect body.  Frieda cannot understand this and becomes exposed to the full scrutiny of her peers and this only heightens her desire to be accepted and valued as she constantly compares herself with the other eves.

Appearance, beauty, body weight and ranking within the confines of the
society of school are all held under the magnifying glass. With a
devastatingly sharp style and use of language, O’Neill brings these
issues, that can erode a child’s self-esteem, into sharp focus
with a deliberation that causes discomfort.  Satirical and subversive,
this book is part of a growing list of contemporary YA fiction books
that challenges both the child and adult reader and raises interesting questions about contemporary societal views.

I could not put this book down.  It was an interesting and enjoyable, if
somewhat unsettling read that won’t be easily forgotten.

Look out for a Q&A with the author herself – read about it on the Big Book Project soon.

Thanks for reading and feel free to share your thoughts too.

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