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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 boy 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 ver known…
Only Ever Yours is a thought-provoking dystopia novel giving a futuristic portrayal of the treatment and role of women in society. O’Neil transports the reader into a world where women are objectified and considered materialistic goods-‘purchased’ by men to be their companions.
The main character ‘freida’ grows up in a school in the ‘Euro Zone’ (the author does not capitalise girls names in the book, unlike men, emphasising that women are considered second class citizens). Similar to the rest of her fellow ‘eves’ she was not born unlike the men in society but genetically engineered to prohibit any imperfection. The girls are continuously ranked and compared against one another, each desperate to prove that they are beautiful enough to be worthy of becoming a companion to one of the ten Inheritants (men looking for wives) as oppose to the other thirds they could be assigned to-‘concubines’ or ‘chastity’s’.
The main character freida was very relatable as O’Neil writes the book in 1st person from freida’s point of view, creating a very honest, sarcastic and on occasion humorous tone. She appears quite ordinary, self- critical and willing to please others. As a result, O’Neil does make the reader feel quite sympathetic towards the main character.
The secondary characters include isabel a close friend of freida’s and Megan who is presented as the leader of the group not short of confidence. Megan’s evident pride of her status as #1 ‘eve’, takes advantage of being highly respected by other characters and frequently uses her power to manipulate or belittle other. The book confronts the prominent issue of body image by exaggerating the expectations and pressure put on girls in current day society. Despite it being a fictional book it is very relatable due to its references to social media, celebrity idols and relatable characters.
I have deliberated for some time over how I feel about the ending of the book, Louise O’Neil concludes the novel with an unsuspected dark twist. Although, at first this was a disappointing end to a gripping book, perhaps O Neil has deliberately brought the book to an abrupt sombre end. Possibly deliberately highlighting that despite it being fictional the obsession and concerns surrounding body image is a very prominent issue affecting society and that if nothing is done this futuristic portrayal could become a reality.
The book is targeted at predominantly teenage girls as the book’s main theme is female body image and it contains some adult themes.
Overall I would recommend this book giving it a 4/5 due to its unique and clever concept, which I feel is very appropriate in the ever more body image sensitive society which is evolving, however, I think the ending of the book was an anticlimax, lacking a positive outcome or a sense of victory.