I’m going to start with quite a bold statement, uncharacteristic of my reviews: this book is brilliant. It’s a cross between The Handmaid’s Tale and the film Mean Girls and I love both of those equally, so of course I loved this book.
Only Ever Yours is the tale of frieda (the lack of a capital letter is intentional), an ‘eve’ or girl created in the labs of a dystopian future in which the patriarchy reigns supreme and women have a ‘termination date’ of their 40th creation date. Before then, though, these girls are created to fulfil one of three roles: the companion, a wife and almost-chaste mother of sons; the concubine, who is designed to meet the men’s sexual needs outside of marriage; and the chastity, a secular nun-like figure whose role is to care for the growing eves.
And what of the eves’ intended husbands? Well, they are the Inheritants, who choose a girl when they’re sixteen. This is when frieda’s downfall begins; she falls in love with the top rated boy, Darwin (whereas the boys are named after scientists and other important men, the girls are named after models and actresses, and each girl possesses qualities of her namesake. freida resembles Freida Pinto, the girl named cara is famed for her strong eyebrows.)
The girls live in isolation from the world, but their own world is one of petty jealousy, backstabbing and endless analysis of their looks and others’. Constantly ranked against each other from the age of four, they learn that their worth is entirely based on their outward appearance.
The novel is a powerhouse of criticism of the representation of women and men in the media- at times it bristles with O’Neill’s disapproval of the modern world and the way we view ourselves and others. The girls are just objects for the male gaze and their to serve the men who will ultimately decide their fate- using the madonna/whore dichotomy that has so shaped our media since Victorian times. It’s just that now we have the internet to help. The girls turn on each other with alarming speed in order to get what they want, whilst still maintaining that fake facade we all remember from secondary school.
As a media teacher, and someone fascinated by the way we view the world, I loved it.