Thursday, 29 January 2015

Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill

Reviewer: JJ Marsh

What We Thought: O’Neill blends an unreal alternative world with an uncanny skill at describing real human interaction. In doing so, she raises some awkward questions.

frieda and all the other “eves” are nearing the end of School. None of them can read, but they are each expert in body consciousness, colour coordinated underwear, hairstyling and manipulation. Only months to go until they learn their fate: companion, concubine or chastity? Friendships are as false as nails, tears and anger are forbidden and there is always room for improvement. frieda did have a true friend once, someone she’d known all her designed life, but isabel has changed. And she got fat.

A deeply chilling novel of women as carefully bred commodities, whose initial outlandish premise grows increasingly sinister when the parallels to contemporary culture run uncomfortably close. The girls communicate via eFones, MyFace and VideoChat, they follow reality TV shows such as Charles and carrie Carmichael, they compete to be the thinnest, the prettiest, the glossiest, and they take their meds. Some more than others.

So many things about this world impressed me – the lowercase names, the wealthy ‘Inheritants’ who get to choose their females, the Huxley/Orwellian control over obsessive body image and peer judgement, the Nutrition Centre and Organised Recreation – but most disturbing of all were the cruel mind games inflicted by the girls on each other.

This book makes you think hard about a range of issues: gender, sexuality, self-awareness, religion, conditioning, the pressure on young girls and exactly how far away this alternative universe is from our own.

You’ll like this if you enjoyed: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, Rats by JW Hicks.

Avoid if you dislike: Sci-fi, sexual politics, young women

Ideal accompaniments: Gazpacho, sparkling water with lime juice and vodka, and Jerry Goldsmith’s soundtrack to The Omen.

Genre: Literary fiction, science fiction, young adult

Available from Amazon

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