Review: Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill
Publication Date: July 3, 2014
Women are no longer born naturally. Instead they are artificially created to look beautiful, serve men, and bear more children. At graduation, the most beautiful girls become "companions," while less desirable girls become either concubines or chastities.
Best friends, Freida and Isabel, have spent their entire lives planning to graduate together as companions. But then Isabel starts gaining weight, the worse thing an eve can do, right before suitors are about to arrive.
This is such a hard book to review because of what it talks about, the main themes, and the point it's trying to make. Because of that, this is going to be an entirely unpopular opinion that involves a lot of ranting and very strong feelings. If that's something you're not comfortable with, then it's fine if you don't continue reading this review. I did just want to have that disclaimer before I get into this because I have extremely strong feelings about this.
When I received this e-book on NetGalley, there was no note or anything to imply that it was an uncorrected proof or unrevised copy, but oh my gosh, there were so many grammatical and spelling errors. I found myself correcting spelling and grammatical errors so often, it was a little ridiculous.
One of the things I noticed immediately is that the eves don't have capitalized names. All of the women in this book have fully lower-cased names. At first, I wondered if this was due to a mistake or laziness, but I realized a little while later that it reflects their lack of value. Interesting way of showing that these girls aren't worth anything, but also kind of annoying for someone who is a stickler for grammar, like myself. It was something I kind of got used to as the book went on, but I still didn't like it. I totally understood why it was so important and why it was something the author did, but it served as another aspect of the book that confused me because there was no explanation. If I didn't put it together that it reflects their lack of worth, I would have spent the entire book being confused.
This book has a very distinct and specific world view, which I had a very hard time swallowing. The basic premise is that the world created drugs that were gender-specific. Then the world decided to believe that female babies would only come to steal their mother's beauty. So here's the thing. I can understand how some women would believe that having children destroys their beauty, regardless of the child's gender, but this is gender-specific towards girls and makes me wonder how not only the entire nation agreed on that, but the entire world. No, it wasn't just one country or continent, the ENTIRE world agreed on this philosophy.
Which then moves me to my next point of who in the world would now carry babies? It sure as hell wasn't going to be men, mostly because men aren't designed to do that. But seriously, it's a little hard to believe that the entire world agreed that women should stop having female babies and not think about how the hell they would continue populating the world. They literally screwed themselves over, realized their massive mistake, then decided to design girls artificially so they'd be more attractive, according to men's perception. Fantastic. Absolutely amazing.
That in itself made it harder for me to like the book because it was so hard for me to believe that the WHOLE WORLD would agree on this philosophy.
Another thing in this book is that Freida keeps saying "she" appears, talks, or does something, when referring to another girl, but then doesn't tell us who that girl is for at least another paragraph. Yes, that's incredibly useful and helpful in an environment where there are ONLY girls.
There's no proper explanation as to who the "Father" is, what he does, how he gets his position, why he's so important, and what role he plays in the design of new girls. He's someone who they all talk about, and yes, there's a vague explanation in the latter part of the book, but it fails to deliver an actual explanation of who this "Father" really is.
One of the biggest points in the book is how Isabel, Freida's best friend, starts behaving differently. Obviously, there's going to be some communication issues because that's how conflict works, but honestly, I wasn't happy with how they resolved it. It felt sloppy and cheap. There was such a weird tension between Freida and Isabel as they both became such different people, but the build-up made me thing it was so much more intense than it ended up being. Their resolution was so badly done.
A lot of this book revolves around Freida's insecurity, which is only natural considering that every girl is constantly told that they can be improved and constantly compared with each other. However, there is a point in which Freida's insecurity can become too much. Which is always in this book. Even though I understand her paranoia and insecurity, the intensity of it made her such an incredibly unlikeable character. There were so many points in the book in which I wished we had a different main character. I cared nothing for Freida and found her more and more unlikeable as the book progressed. I could find nothing about her or her "problems" that I felt bad about, nor did I really care about what was happening to her.
In fact, none of the characters in this book are likeable. They was little to no distinction between them, and I can't tell them apart. With such a large cast of characters, they all look the same in my mind. Almost all of them sound exactly the same and I couldn't tell you the differences between them. They're all the same person in my mind. I have no idea what any of them actually look like, they're all just faceless people. Even at the end of the book, I wouldn't be able to tell you what any of them looked like.
The book had an extremely large cast of characters, most of which I will never remember. There was nothing about them that separated them from each other. It's like they were all mass-manufactured in a factory (okay, the girls literally were) and spit out. I might be able to vaguely tell you if one character was meaner than the other, but heck, nothing about them was interesting.
The most interesting part of the book, is sadly when guys begin to appear. But then again, I could also barely tell them apart and it soon grew to be repetitive. They were all badly written, stereotypical, and unredeemable. If I met any of them on the streets, I'd walk far away and not look back.
Lastly, the ending of the book confused me and frustrated me so much. I vaguely understand what the author was trying to do and tell us, but it was so badly done. I was confused as to what was happening, frustrated that I was confused, then became confused as to what I was frustrated about because I had no idea what was going on anymore. The resolution felt like such an info-dumpy, sloppy mess. Not to mention the fact that this book is 400 pages long and could literally have been condensed into 250 pages of much more interesting plot.
Literally none of them made enough of a lasting impression for me to talk about.
0.5 stars. Congratulations for being the lowest rated book I've read this year. I really did not like this book. I would not recommend it to anyone. I definitely feel like I wasted my time with this book.
Thank you to NetGalley for hosting this on your site. Thank you also to Quercus for approving my request to read this in exchange for an honest review.