Book Review: Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

OnlyEverYoursCoverSynopsis: Set in a world where women (eves) can only be companions, concubines, or chastities, freida and isabel have been best friends for years. In their last year of school before going into the world, isabel begins to put on weight and distance herself from freida. The Inheritants (Men) arrive and the choosing begins.

Review: Only Ever Yours stunned me. It tore me down and it kept me there. It is set in a futuristic world run by Men, where the eves (women) only have three options in life: companion, concubine, or chastity. Companions marry one Man and only bear sons until they reach their Termination Date of age forty. Concubines are well … sexual playthings for the Men. And the chastities get to train the young girls in everything important in being an eve. Basically, all the eves do at “school” is work out, stress out about makeup and their clothes, and the chastities force them to all have eating disorders and be dependent on medication to sleep. At school the eves are surrounded by mirrors, weighed daily and meds adjusted daily to compensate for weight loss/gain, and the eves must also listen to messages that play non-stop during the night. Lovely messages like “I am a good girl. I am appealing to others.  I am always agreeable.”

freida and isabel (note the no capitalization of the names) have been best friends forever, and now they are in their final year of school before they officially become either companions, concubines, or chastities. isabel begins to gain weight and not act the part of a perfect companion, and naturally the feeding frenzy of the other girls begins. One of the mysteries of the book is why is isabel acting this way? Why is she ignoring freida?

Now that isabel is gaining weight and not acting her part, another girl, megan, becomes the popular one, the #1 ranked eve. megan really irritated me. She is a bully. And these other girls just take what megan dishes out over and over again. No one ever stands up to her, and it really bothered me. I like to see my “bad guys” get their comeuppance!

Once the Inheritants (the guys) enter into the picture, things get even more competitive and vicious between the girls as the guys get to choose who becomes their companion.  The unchosen eves either become concubines or chastities. None of the guys were that interesting, and I didn’t care who got who/who didn’t get chosen, etc. It just seemed so silly.

The book is told entirely from freida’s point of view, and while freida is interesting (or perhaps I should say that freida’s world is interesting), she never changes. I kept waiting for her to do or say something that would set her apart, but she never took a stand for anything, just kept continuing to spout the nonsense she was being taught, and treated others terribly. I would’ve liked multiple POVs in this book – isabel for sure, one of the chastitys’ (why are they so cruel??), and perhaps one of the guys’ POV to help round things out and give us a glimpse of the outside world.

There are long sections in this book devoted to tearing down the eves. Telling them that they shouldn’t cry, they shouldn’t show emotion, they had to be a certain weight. Telling them they were fat, they were ugly, that they weren’t good enough. These sections were incredibly hard to read and go on and on and on. I would not recommend this book to anyone with self-esteem issues, because for me, I just latched onto certain sayings and kept repeating them to myself as I read. So this book made me very depressed, and left me feeling very low. Maybe that was the point – to put the reader into the eve’s environment so you could understand. But I don’t know that the book was healthy for me to read for this reason.

Another thing I didn’t care for was that about halfway through it just ends up repeating itself. I felt like I was reading the same scene again and again with no different outcome, and so this book could’ve been a lot shorter and still been as effective. I also wished for more information about the world: how they got to this point, how the women lost their voices, why the Men kept them like this, have their been any uprisings, why have all the animals been destroyed, what exactly do the women do on the outside, how do they ensure only sons are born, etc. The ending also really left me with a big question mark. It just… ends… and there’s really no resolution to anything, and … huh? I didn’t really get it. And rather then ponder and think about what it meant (if anything), I think I’ll move on to something more cheerful and positive. This book is anything but those things.

Bottom Line: The writing was phenomenal, and would’ve been a five star book but for the incomplete ending, the lack of a detailed world, and the overall sick feeling I felt while reading.

Reminds me of:

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

And here’s a picture of one epigraph in the book.  Picture below is mine (follow me on Instagram @luvtoread89), but picture of cover at the top of the review is from Goodreads (darn those library books – always putting the library label directly over the author’s name or the title making picture-taking difficult).

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5 thoughts on “Book Review: Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

  1. Sounds like a book not written to open women’s eyes to how we treat each other and put high value on the superficial but to keep women thinking these are the important things to concentrate on. This society would eventually die out because no society can continue to reproduce itself if only men are born. Sounds like a complete waste of reading time to me! Does it say at the back of the book if the author was trying to make a point?

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    1. I don’t think that it was meant to emphasize that this is all women should be thinking about – well, in this particular society that was the point, and it came across as everyone being vapid and dull and not thinking about anything other than themselves. It actually was kind of scary because in the eves free time, they spent all their time on social media and posting selfies and gossiping (which really was an interesting parallel). But I don’t think the author was trying to state that is all we should be thinking about. In one scene freida recalls asking what math is, and the chastities take away what she was looking at so as to discourage questions. It just didn’t have any resolution to the world/environment, and so I was left feeling empty. And the women are “created” somehow by the Men (3x as many eves to each man born in a year – so the men get choices) – but how they are designed/programmed, etc was never explained. So, in this rare instance, I wanted more scientific information about the world!

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  2. Great review. I certainly won’t be reading this book having read your review. Sounds strange to me that the author didn’t take the story anywhere – perhaps she plans a sequel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I don’t know what the point was. Perhaps a modern parallel to spending too much time worrying about our appearances and on social media/gossiping? I wished there was more resolution at the end rather than how it ended, with the cycle just going on. I think it would be a good discussion book as each reader would be bringing their own experiences to the book and I think it would be a great discussion. Many issues are brought up vaguely, and never expounded on, so I was left confused and I would love to discuss this with other readers. There was a big question mark for me about one plotline, which I didn’t mention in my review for spoilers.

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