Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill
Released: July 3, 2014
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.
Remember when I said I bow and worship Louise O’Neill? This is the book that introduced us – author and reader – and this is the book I recommend so hard, I would literally throw this book at people if it meant they would read it. So heads up, here comes a book flying at you.
We meet freida on the start of school. She’s usually top rated with her best friend, isabel, but hasn’t seen her in a while. When isabel returns to school, she looks different – she looks bigger, and freida begins to distance herself because she needs to be the best, she needs to be a companion. (Also, please note the use of lowercase female proper nouns – trust me, that isn’t my choice). Slowly, freida starts to fall in the ranks and she believes her chances of being a companion are lost but then the men show up, the prospects, and there are only ten for her year. The top slot is Darwin, and all the girls want him, and he only has eyes for freida which upsets most of the girls. freida thinks she’s finally made it, even without her best friend, isabel, freida believes she’s going to get everything she’s ever planned, but it’s a bit hard to be the best.
This novel takes place in the most screwed up version of the world you can imagine. Women are bred and live in a school to learn to be wife or companion or teacher. In freida’s class, most want to be companions or concubines, only one wants to be a teacher. freida and isabel always had a plan to be companions together, they would raise their sons together, be neighbors – they had a dream – but isabel starts acting weird and freida has no idea why because her best friend will not speak with her.
Only Ever Yours hit me in the head with the story – does that sound weird? I read it in one sitting because I just needed to know. I had ideas on how I thought the story was going to go and while there were hints, it didn’t go there but it showed that those things did happen in this world.
Oh goodness, the world-building. I’ve never actually spoken about that before but this world was built in the blink of an eye. As I read, I could picture easily everything happening, the classrooms, the dorms, the horrible scenes that I won’t go into, the little cubicles the girls met with the guys, it was so vivid, I thought I was watching a movie.
Louise O’Neill writes so beautifully, so perfectly, so vividly, I just want this woman to write my memoir titled Girl Who Reads Too Much. It will be boring but it will be beautiful.
There are so many comparisons between this and The Handmaid’s Tale and it makes sense. For me, this seemed like a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. As terrifying as that is, I really enjoyed the story.