Title: Only Ever Yours
Author: Louise O'Neill
Published by: Quercus Books
Publication date: 3rd July 2014
Genres: YA Sci-fi/Dystopian/Fantasy/Feminism
This is one of those books that you finish and think, 'I wish I'd written that." Also, 'When I grow up, I want to be Louise O'Neill.'
The world as we know it has gone. In its place is a world where women are no longer born - instead, they're created and genetically modified to be perfect. This new generation of women call themselves 'eves' and they live in a strict boarding school for sixteen years, with their only goal being to please men.
Their classes aren't academic - being academic is frowned upon - and, instead, they take classes such as Comparison Studies where two eves are stripped to their underwear while the rest of the class have to send them anonymous messages with what they need to improve about their looks. They also have Organised Recreation where the eves are put in glass coffins and given medication to stop them from getting too emotional or hysterical. Eves thought to be too intelligent, overweight, ugly or angry are punished.
They must be good. They must be appealing to others. They must be agreeable.
At the end of their sixteenth year at the School, ten boys of the same age, called Inheritants, pick their wives. The remaining eves either become concubines (prostitutes) or chastities who, after having their heads shaved and their wombs removed, teach the new students.
As you can probably tell, Only Ever Yours is dark, disturbing and one of the best books I have ever read. O'Neill has taken our misogynistic and anti-feminist world, amplified it, and turned it into something dystopian. She has shown us what could easily happen to our society if we let it, and it should have been ridiculous, but it wasn't because it's so true to life and very close to home. I have no idea how I'm going to be able to wait until September for O'Neill's next book, Asking For It, which sounds equally fantastic.
Some parts, like the following extract, made me laugh despite the underlying seriousness and realism of the situation:
It was interesting to see that, even in a world where women are designed to be perfect, almost all of the eves have problems with anorexia, bulimia, and just generally hating themselves for the way they look. It was a brutal but honest depiction of what it's like to be a teenage girl in today's world.
It takes a little while to get used to the writing style - specifically, the female names beginning with a lower-case letter - but you soon get used to it. I'm probably wrong, but I thought that might symbolise how the eves are inferior to the men, whose names are capitalised.
And, because this is starting to sound like an English essay, here is my initial reaction after finishing the book back in January:
So, there we go. I might seem calm now but that book had a massive effect on me, and I urge all of you to read it. Chilling and intense, Only Ever Yours really got under my skin and highlights everything society tries to cover up.