Friday, 24 June 2016

YA Book Review: Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill

We finally got around to reading Only Ever Yours after having it on our 'to-read' list for way too long! The author,  Louise O'Neill, has accelerated to the forefront of the Irish literature scene over the past two years, and it's clear why, this is a lady who has her finger firmly on the pulse of the YA genre.

The Book Blurb reads:
freida 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 be perfect mounts. isabel starts to self-destruct putting her beauty - her only asset - in peril. 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...

From the first pages we were sucked into this strange and sickening world where women are nothing more than playthings to do the bidding of men. All females in this world are raised in schools where they are taught to base their self worth solely on factors like; their beauty, their weight; their fashion sense and their ability to hide their emotions at all times in case they might make a male uncomfortable. The women are, for all intents and purposes, living barbie dolls. In the school, popularity amongst the girls is incredibly fickle, they trade compliments like currency and utilise their insults as deadly weapons. 

As a satirical examination of our modern day World, Only Ever Yours, raises many interesting questions. If we don't share it on social media, did it really happen? Are our lives worthwhile if other people aren't jealous of us? Do women constantly rate themselves against other women, even their friends? Are women judged more harshly than men when it comes to having sex? Only Ever Yours is a read that will impose an Instagram filter called 'cynicism' right in front of your cornea, which you'll struggle to blink away once you realise just how much of the craziness in the book is just a magnified truth from real life. 

One thing that we will say is that it isn't always a nice read, there are elements that will shock and will make you feel uncomfortable, or sad. We also found that about half way through we struggled to really care for the characters, even the protagonist freida, became unlikable to the point that we started to lose interest in what happened to her. Whilst we appreciate why the characters are the way they are - they've been raised in an abusive, demeaning environment - as readers we personally like to bond with the characters and that was a struggle with this book. Regardless of this, we'd recommend you give it a read, there's lots to take away from Only Ever Yours - this one doesn't sit quietly in the corner. 

Have you read Only Ever Yours? What did you think?

Only Ever Yours, published by Quercus, is suitable for ages 13 and up and is available in all good bookstores. 

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