Published: July 2014, Quercus
Pages: 400, Kindle book
Acquired: Purchased myself
Summary (From Goodreads): 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…
My Review: Described as a mash up of Mean Girls and The Handmaid’s Tale, Only Ever Yours is a book that’ll grab you from page one and won’t you go until…well…actually I finished reading it about three weeks ago and I’m still thinking about it so it’d be more accurate to say it’s a story that won’t let you go at all.
The cover perfectly encapsulates the tone of the book – beautiful and dangerous in equal measure. Only Ever Yours is a dark, twisted look at an imagined future where girls are bred and raised to be beautiful and please men. That’s it. No intellect, no sense of humour, no true friendships – the girls work towards being as ‘perfect’ as possible before they graduate and join the ranks of companions, concubines or teachers, depending on how they perform…and by perform, I mean how skinny and beautiful they are.
It’s a truly disturbing, moreish read, with the perfect amount of forward motion to keep me racing through the pages until the early hours of the morning. I gobbled this story up in a couple of sittings and I got absolutely everything I ever want from a YA novel – a pacey storyline, shocking twists and turns, sharp dialogue and an unforgettable ending. O’Neill is a true talent and the world and characters she conjures up in Only Ever Yours are absolutely fantastic. Frieda, in particular, was a revelation and her journey as the novel progressed was upsetting and compelling in equal measure.
Something O’Neill does particularly well is create a sense of dread that builds and builds throughout the novel. From the outset I knew that something wasn’t right and felt nervous for my favourite characters, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was that disturbed me so much (apart from the obvious disturbing elements of the school!). It felt suffocating and claustrophobic and I really applaud O’Neill for creating such a tangible feeling of dread through her words.
I’m finding it really hard to put my feelings about Only Ever Yours into words so, in short, do me a favour and read it, okay? It’s one you’ll want to discuss with absolutely everybody you come into contact with, I promise! Weeks later and I’m still thinking about that last paragraph…