My obsession with The Stepford Wives often leads me to some pretty dark, dystopian stories, and this book is as dark as they come. I saw someone I follow on Instagram reading it and I liked the look of the cover. So I sought out some reviews and decided it was right up my street.
Only Ever yours is a young adult book, which I often read because I find the subject matter of YA books really hook me. And they can be read relatively quickly if I’m looking for something to read on the train. This book may be a fast read, but the subject matter is by no means easy.
Only Ever Yours takes place in a future where girls are no longer born naturally due to their flaws. Females are manufactured, and to the specifications of the men who they will serve. Eves, as the young girls are known, live separately to the rest of society and are schooled in how to attract and please men, right up until they are 16 when they are chosen to have one of three fates: Concubine, Companions or Chastities. To become a Companion is the biggest prize, chosen by one of the young men who come to ‘audition’ them to be the perfect model of wife and mother to as many male heirs as she can produce. A Concubine is a prostitute who will work in one of the many brothels in the city. To be a Chastity is the worst prospect, she will stay at the school and teach younger Eves for the rest of her life, never to be allowed to leave.
We see life through the eyes of Frieda, who, along with her best friend Isabel, is a high ranking Eve. But when Isabel commits the worst possible sin, putting on weight, Frieda has to decide whether to protect her friend and stay loyal, or to focus all her efforts on her path to becoming a Companion. Things start well for Frieda, but soon her life goes horribly downhill, spiralling out of control. Then she faces the worst fate imaginable.
I read this book in a bit of a frenzy, hoping desperately that with each page things would get better for Frieda. It’s a long time since a book has made me feel so angry and despairing. Author Louise O’Neill uses clever devices like the lack of capitalising the girls names and using punctuation to underline the inconsequence of the female characters which make you feel utterly immersed in the girls’ plight.
Brilliant and devastating all at once. A quick read but by no means an easy or unchallenging one. I highly recommend.