Today I want to review Louise O'Neill's debut novel Only Ever Yours which is a YA book set in a dystopian future. Essentially, we follow freida (all females' names are uncapitalised) who is in a boarding school environment training to become either a: chastity, concubine or companion.
A companion is a wife figure in this society and is what many of the girls at the school want to become as it's seen as the most respectable position for a woman to hold. The concubines are prostitute figures, and some of the girls wish to become them, but they aren't considered to be as good a ranking. Finally, we have the chastity which is a nun-like figure who runs the boarding schools where the young women learn the traits needed to become either chastity, companion or concubine.
This book blew me away. Whilst reading the first half you follow freida in her everyday life around school and you see the judgemental way the girls treat each other. I felt this really reflected our society at the moment and how we perceive women who are extremely under or over weight. They want to be perfect, and this is an expectation women in today's society are already facing so this development of it is quite terrifying. They judge each other on what they eat, what they wear, what they look like and it's a very closed society with no escape. This reflects social media and how every photo that is posted is analysed and looked over to ensure it's perfect and meets all the standards society has set in place.
As the book progresses you see a downward spiral begin to occur. For me, downward spiral books aren't my favourite as I don't like the feeling of desperation that the characters have or the fact that nothing will improve. That just doesn't inspire me. However, this book is the clear exception to the rule. I was left speechless by the ending. It was harrowing and devastating but the completely right end for this story. This wasn't a story that could end happily, even if I wanted it to. This was a story with a social message about what is happening to women. It isn't about rebels and spies who take out the corrupt leader. This goes deeper. You can't take down social injustice and prejudice overnight. Especially when the people you want to free don't believe they need freeing.
I'm not sure if this is the type of book to make you become a feminist, but I think it definitely challenges your views of the world and how we treat women. This could be a very real future for us. So, it's probably best to already have some feminist ideals under your belt before reading this as I feel this could just be disregarded as a dystopia and bypass the feminist elements.
Definitely pick this up and give it a go. It'll stay with you forever.
There you have it, not only one of my first posts in my FemLit series but also a review! Gosh, what a day.
I''ll see you tomorrow!