Only Ever Yours is my book of the year. It perfectly encapsulates the way society sees the female body and mind through a dystopian mindset.
Girl, known as ‘eves’, are genetically created in The School and trained from the ages 4-16 on how to fulfil one of three roles. The first being a companion, up to three eves are made for every boy born in the same year, they will then choose their preferred eve to become their wife. Secondly, a concubine, which to the best of my knowledge is a renaming of prostitution – almost all eves who aren’t selected as companions become a concubine unless they show an aptitude for the third possibility. Chastities teach the young eves all they need to know about the first two options. Eves physical appearances are under the strictest of scrutiny and they are constantly being fed SleepSound and kcal blockers.
O’Neill’s words truly ring home when relationships between the eves becomes nasty. Frieda, the novel’s protagonist, is put in an awkward position when her best friend Isabel is socially shunned for gaining an excessive amount of weight during the summer between terms and is cast out as #1 eve. Meanwhile, Megan takes her place and becomes the Regina George of The School, creating a source of internal turmoil for Frieda who must choose where to stand on the matter. To top it off Megan, her supposed new best friend causes all kinds of chaos for her when she becomes the likely choice for the #1 male Darwin.
One particular aspect I was fascinated by was the use of social media such as the repurposing of FaceBook as ‘MyFace’. Not only did this reimagining hone in much more on personal features it was combined with ‘Who Wore It Better?’ a comparative version of Instagram where two people wearing similar outfits would be judged on the best looking. The overall concepts were cleverly used as representative of the volatility these platforms can bring forward.
As Dawn Kurtagich, Author of The Dead House commented it’s “a dark, disturbing and relentless page-turner, with a breathless sense of hopelessness”. Only Ever Yours is truly unrelenting in its lack of compassion and empathy for the eves, particularly Frieda and Isabel. Their outcomes aren’t the happily-ever-after we all come to yearn for and O’Neill succeeds ferociously in underpinning the inequalities women still face through her hyperbolic apocalypse.
This book truly deserves all the praise that it’s been given and I strongly encourage you to read it! So much so that I went out to immediately buy Asking For It, O’Neill’s second title.