Rated Reads

Only Ever Yours

by Louise O'Neill

Rated: High

In a future in which the earth has flooded and is far less populated, only boys are born to women, and women are created — not just created, but genetically engineered to be perfect, meaning beautiful. Then they are placed in Schools and taught how to become just what men need, whether as “companions” (essentially wives) or concubines, or, if they aren’t chosen for one of those options by the men, they become “chastities,” women who live to serve, such as teachers in the Schools. Sixteen-year-old freida (yes, the names of the “eves” are lowercase, whereas boys’ names are capitalized) is finishing up her last year in School and is preparing, along with about 30 other girls, to be chosen for her role in society by the Inheritants, 10 young men who are her age and live in the EuroZone.

The lives of these teens revolve exclusively around their looks: their weight is monitored every day, they learn about style and makeup, and they must judge each other and provide “helpful” criticism because “there is always room for improvement.” The environment is the height of cattiness and competitiveness and all that’s shallow. It’s a nightmare, but it’s all the girls know. freida is scared about her future but is also thrown by the strange behavior of her best friend, isabel. She seems to be spiraling out of control. But the chastities never berate her as they do others. Isabel is special. But at a time when freida desperately needs her friend, she is unavailable, at least emotionally, and freida doesn’t know how to cope. As the selection Ceremony approaches, freida is close to spiraling out of control herself, just when she needs to be her best.

This novel was just as on point as I expected. It captures the craziness of how women can focus so narrowly on their looks and value as objects of desire by men. I found it slow going at first because the author just spends pages and pages going over in detail all the ways that women (the characters) obsess over every facet of our looks. It was a bit of a dull slog. But I think that was intentional, and it made its point. As a cautionary tale, it’s a great reminder that ALL of us — men and women — need to do better in how we value women and somehow reject our society’s obsession with image, whether it’s body weight, standard beauty or youth.

Rated: High for younger readers, for about four or five uses of strong language, some other milder language, and talk of sex and a couple of sex scenes, without detail. Sex is discussed and wielded as a tool, and the girls are expected to submit to men’s every desire. While there isn’t much in the way of detail or anything that’s arousing, the themes are for more mature teens.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 15 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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Only Ever Yours
  • Only Ever Yours
  • by Louise O'Neill
  • Rated: High
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: