Only Ever Yours

Only Ever Yours

Title: Only Ever Yours 

Author: Louise O’Neill 

Review by Bryony Porter-Collard

Only Ever Yours is a compelling, dystopian tale of a young girl, Frieda, who has been created for the sole purpose of pleasing men.

Frieda, and the other ‘Eves’, are manufactured and live in an institution where they are rated on their appearance every day and taught to be perfect. Now sixteen, Frieda must navigate through her final year of ‘schooling’ in an attempt to eventually become a great man’s companion. To achieve this, she has to stay one of the top ten beautiful girls in her year by maintaining the right weight and looks. If she fails, she will be condemned to a life as a concubine, or a chastity (who teach other girls how to be perfect).

The task seems simple enough as Frieda has always been in the top ten but, as her best friend Isabel’s behaviour becomes increasingly strange and the pressure of the final year becomes too much, Frieda is increasingly scared that she won’t ever become a companion. The first person perspective of the narrative enables the reader to follow Frieda’s mental state closely and observe how her actions become more erratic and desperate as she succumbs to her programmed thoughts.

Dystopia

Louise O’Neill presents a truly dystopian vision: there is no respite for the girls – even when they are sleeping there are messages pumped through a PA system: “I am a good girl. I am appealing to others. I am always agreeable.” There is not one moment when Frieda can speak freely without it getting back to someone and getting her in trouble.

The fact that none of the girls’ names are ever capitalised illustrates the fact that they have no originality, they are not important and they are just instruments for men. While most of the girls’ behaviour is often superficial and cruel – if they are not discussing their appearance, they are ridiculing someone else’s – as the novel progresses you realise that, within their sheltered lives, what else is there to talk about when all you learn, see and read is how to look beautiful? It becomes increasingly obvious they do not have the mental capacity to even comprehend the changing the world in which they live.

Only Ever Yours is a haunting tale that brings to light many questions about the definition of beauty. The institution that the Eves live in and the teachers that shape them are strong metaphors for today’s media and how it dictates how women and girls should look, act and sometimes even feel.

Review by Bryony Porter-Collard

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks, great article.

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