Wednesday 26 August 2015


Title: Only Ever Yours
Author: Louise O'Neill
Publisher: Quercus
Genre: YA, Dystopian, Science Fiction
Release Date: 3rd July 2014

BLURB from Goodreads
In 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. . .


I have had this book on my “To Read” list for a while and have finally gotten around to reading it. I’m hoping that this is going to be a great dystopian. I am quite fascinated in how people view future females, and how perhaps present day worries may manifest within this female centered dystopian book. 

I downloaded an e-galley of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. I've seen three different covers for this book, but have chosen to feature the one I like the most. Though I think all three covers I have seen for this book fit it so well. There is what I would describe as a "barbie" doll on the cover to represent the "perfection" women should strive for as dictated by society. The beautiful cascading blonde wavy hair, teamed with the beautiful blue eyes with long lush eyelashes and the perfect red bow lips. 
There is a byline on the cover which fits before and after the title. "Choose A Girl . . . Only Ever Yours. . . To Own Forever" This byline really does fit the book and give you a hint at the society and the way females are a commodity. So would the cover alone make me pick this book up in a book store? Yes, it would, the cover images would attract my eye and then the byline would make me want to learn more about the book.
The world has changed beyond recognition, the Noah Project thought up by the America's but financed by the Chindia's has been undertaken. Anything thought unworthy or un-needed was abandoned, animal's thought to be of no use, organised religion is left behind. Female babies were thought to steal their mothers beauty so are no longer born. The result of this is soon there were no child bearing age women. Female babies are created and designed by men. The engineers have produced an improved female, that they refer to as eve's. The eve's live in a school that is protected from the wastelands by a large dome. The eve's "outside" is under the dome and it's all artificial grass, tree's, and flowers. Even the birds in the trees are artificially re-created out of fabric. All this gives an illusion of normality. The chastitie's run the school, they have shaved heads and wear voluminous intimidating yet shapeless black cloaks and show very little emotion even though they are the nearest thing to a mother the eve's have. The chastitie's teach the eve's to make the best of themselves. They chastitie's instill in the eve's that fat woman and old women are ugly! They are also taught Social Graces lessons, initially all eve's are taught the same then later after the "ceremony" when the eve's are separated into the three thing's they can become when they leave the school. The most coveted position is that of companion, they are the "best" eve's who will go on to have babies for the man they are assigned to. Once they are announced as companion's they are taught little mama classes. Then there's the concubine's who are visited by many men, surprisingly some of the eve's would rather be concubine's than companions. They are taught more about sex and how to please a man. Finally the third option is to stay within the school and become a chastity themselves. Becoming a chastity is unusual and an eve who really wishes to become a chastity is an ever more rare occurrence. Another class that features regularly and is often used to tire the girls out is "organised recreation". The eve's have this class every day at the end of their day. It's a way to make sure the girls are too tired to get up to mischief. This "class" is used to combat "female hysteria" so any eve thought to be overly emotional is sent to do extra organised recreation. I'd say it's a way to keep the eve's subdued and under control. For organised recreation the girls enter one of the glass boxes at either side of the chastities desk, they are handed their meds then transported down a shaft into the large basement area. The eve's stand into their individual glass coffin like boxes. Each girl has her own box personal to her.
So this book is quite futuristic in that the eve's live in their own little pods within a dormitory. They are woken up, they step into a cupboard type machine which cleans their bodies, does their hair in the style they have chosen and produces the necessary clothes for "the look" they are going for.  Each eve has their photograph taken and then go onto class where the chastity in charge of the class will reveal their rankings. Obviously all the eve's want to be #1! or if they cannot be #1 they want to be in the top ten that are unofficially supposed to be guaranteed a place as a companion. Then if not in the top ten they wish to be friends with the girls that are high ranking. Everything about the eve's is monitored from their looks, their clothes taste and of course the most important thing being monitored is their weight. All eve's eat in the Nutritional Centre, where the food is set under tureens with sign's above as to the calorie content. There is also the "fat girl buffet". There is also the vomitarium! yes, I admit to being taken aback with this addition to the story which tells us that this dystopic society finds it totally acceptable for the eve's to eat as much as they can cram in, then take medication that makes them run to the toilet or the vomitarium to then "get rid" of the food. This futuristic society seems to applaud weight loss by any means necessary.  So what happens if you are found to be over your target weight? Well you can be put on probation, and sent to the "chamber"where it is very hot and humid and they workout with weights. Also any overweight eve can be made to listen to a soundtrack which is meant to shame them into losing the weight. The soundtrack is filled with mantra's such as "Fat girls must be made obsolete" For example when isabel is on probation she is sent to the chamber to lift weights, listen to the soundtrack, her medication of kcal blockers is increased even though the larger dosage is considered very dangerous. isabel is isolated in this way until she becomes her ideal weight again. Having said that isabel seem's to be receiving special treatment in comparison to any other eve who is over their target weight. We learn more about how isabel is treat slightly differently and why later in the book. The eve's are actively encouraged to find faults in each other, ie skin blemishes, slight weight gains, last weeks "in" hair-do. The chastitie's openly promote and egg on the bitchy snideness within the school. It is like the "mean girls" at school times a hundred fold. The book is done in a kind of diary style with the main character of frieda counting down the months until the ceremony. Even the female names in this book are not given a capital letter to further express the perceived worthlessness. Again and again the eve's are reminded of their worth, that it depends on the inheritants choosing them at the ceremony, if they wish to be companions. chastity-ruth reminds the eve's that thinking too much robs them of their beauty. So no man wants a companion who thinks too much. I'd say from my interpretation and reading of the book that the chastities are like matrons, or wardens. They are also the nearest thing to a "mother figure" the eve's will ever have. The eve's look to the man who is "in charge" as their father, even calling him Father. The eve's are taught to hang on his every word and strive to be the best they can be as that is what the father preaches to them. chastity-anne thinks of the eve's bt the medication she dispensed to them. Even the eve's sleep is medicated with a wonder drug alled "sleep sound" even though it is known in large doses to cause muscle spasms, internal bleeding, corrosin of the vital organs as well as being highly addictive. We go through the addictive cycle of sleep sound with frieda. It is thought the more an eve sleeps the more beautiful she can become.
So to say a lot happens in this book is an understatement! and all of the above happens before the Inheritant's who get to choose their companion from the eve's presented to them. I found the constant pressure on the eve's to be beautiful intense but when you look at it some of these demands are what young girls today face. I hope any young adult reading this book is bright enough and confident enough to know that beauty is not everything. That bulimia aka vomitarium is not a good idea, and that a man beating a woman is not acceptable no matter who the man is.
I feel like I have only brushed the surface of this book, I could go on much more about the inheritant's and their thought's, meetings and interactions with the individual eve's. The main character frieda goes through a rough journey in the book, initially believing that her beauty and suitability to become an eve hinges on her weight and beauty. frieda has only one friend at the school, in fact they have quite a sisterly relationship with isabel, the then #1. frieda's place in the rankings fluctuates quite a lot throughout the book. frieda become reliant on isabel, as being friends with the #1 means you too are looked up to by the other eve's. Suddenly one day, it all changes, isabel is no longer #1, so frieda is no longer one of the "popular" girls. Sadly frieda desperately tries to become a friend to the new #1, and abandons her friend in need isabel in favour of competing to be part of the "in crowd". I could go on and on about this book it brushes so many social issues relevant to current issues today such as, bullying, peer pressure, bulimia, anorexia, addiction, domestic abuse, and suicide. I would say the book could be labelled as disturbing, but sadly in our ever changing world all the social issues covered within the book really are quite relatable.
So enough waffling I need to stop now before I reveal spoilers!
Did I enjoy the book? I enjoyed it immensely, and found it a rather thought provoking read. I was both intrigued and ??? by how Louise O'Neill took today's social issue's and transferred them into a pleasurable futuristic read. It was fascinating to see how the eve's perceived their value in terms of weight and visual beauty and how quickly they would secretly and when prompted publicly criticize each other to escape the wrath of whichever chastity was in charge of their class at the time.
Would I recommend the book? Personally I think it would make a great book for young adult girls to read and then discuss the social issues it shines a light on.
Would I want to read a book #2 in this series? I wasn't so keen on the ending for my two favourite characters frieda and isabel but I don't think there will be a book two. If there was a second book in this series I would be adding right to my to read list. Perhaps a spin off book or novella, following the lives of one of the inheritants and his chosen companion would be an interesting one. I would be curious to see if the eve's chosen as companions were happy in the position they had strived so hard for. It really would be fascinating to see if all the eve's were content with the situation they found themselves placed into at the ceremony. Learning more about the chastity training would be something I'd like to read too.
Would I read other titles by this author? I would definitely pay closer attention to anything written by this author.   

My first thoughts and reaction upon finishing this book were "Oh wow I didn't see that ending. The ending is a rather twisted sad ending but I guess it's the only way things could have finished.  If you want a futuristic, involved, engrossing and addictive read that features genuine social issues and concerns then this is one you should read. It's a brilliantly thought provoking book. I'd truly love to Interview this author about this unusual yet in my opinion highly relevant dystopic society.

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