Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

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I usually do book reviews at the end of the month, but I can’t wait that long to share my thoughts on Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill. I first heard about Louise while listening to one of my favorite podcasts that I have raved about many times before, Ctrl Alt Delete by Emma Gannon. They talked about hustling for success, but also the need to take care of yourself while doing so, aka, my current life (just sub yoga/blogging/YouTube for writing phenomenal books). I finally started reading Louise’s first book last week and fell madly in love with the story, the characters, and the author.

Only Ever Yours takes place in the future, once we have ruined our society so deeply that a new system has been put into place. Women are scientifically created and spend their life in school learning how to be the perfect woman. They have target weights they’re suppose to be within. Depending on where they are within that range, they are taught when they need to use self control with food. They work out everyday. They are told men don’t like women that show emotion, therefore they get reprimanded if they cry, get mad, curse, etc. At the end of their 16th year at school, the boys in the society of the same age come in and chose where they go. Their fate is to either become a “companion” (essentially a spouse who’s sole purpose is to birth sons), a “concubine” (only existing to bring pleasure to men), or a “chastity” (working at the school teaching the next generation).

This story follows freida in her final year at school. And yes, all of the girls’ names are not capitalized.

There is a lot going on in this book – freida’s dwindling relationship with her best friend isabel, freida’s insomnia, her undecided future that only a man can chose for her, and you can’t forget her desire to be liked. The girls are ranked by their looks at the beginning of each week, and of course they all want the #1 spot. If you can’t get it, you want to be best friends with the girl that  does.

While the setup of this world is drastically different from ours, it is scary how relatable this book is. We understand freida’s need to be accepted because we’ve all been there. We’ve all known a mean girl who is the queen of manipulation. While the rest of our life hasn’t depended on it, we’ve all wanted the affection and attention of the cutest guy in the room. The situations might be different, but the struggles of being a teenage girl are strikingly familiar.

I love dystopian novels and have read many books by strong women this year. Only Ever Yours gave me both of those and more. Instead of giving female readers a pep talk on standing up for themselves, this book shows us how things could end up if we don’t. By giving us an insider’s look into the thoughts of someone who’s biggest dream in life is to get married, because that is what’s considered the best, it brought all of my other dreams to the forefront of my brain. I don’t want to live for someone else; I want to live for myself. I want to be the best me I can be so I can accomplish everything I want to do.

Not only did this book empower me, but it also showed me how much I have changed. When I was a teenager, I was just as bad as some of these girls. Boys were always the topic of discussion. I wanted to look good so they would like me and maybe one day one would ask me to be his girlfriend. We wanted to be skinny. We wanted to wear whatever was fashionable. But now, as a 26 year old woman, on the days I do wear makeup, it’s because I felt like it. When looking at my closet, I think, “what do I want to wear today?” with an emphasis on the I. I am so proud of myself for the woman I have grown into despite all the pressure to be perfect we all feel when growing up.

I loved this book to say the least. I became engrossed in Freida’s life and had to force myself to put the book down on more than one occasion. And you bet I just capitalized her name because she deserves it.

I cannot encourage you enough to read this book. I’m already making plans to read Louise’s next one, Asking For It. She is an amazing author, feminist, and uses her Twitter to bring light to issues such as rape culture and Repeal the 8th, an abortions right campaign in her home country, Ireland. And if you haven’t already, do listen to Emma Gannon’s podcast. Through it, I have discovered so many amazing people.

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