If we’re honest, media is a big part of how we view ourselves. Maybe that’s why I like reading so much. For me at least, reading is a lot less influencing when it comes to appearance compared to something like scrolling Instagram. I like that. I can always get on social media to check up on what people are wearing or doing, but books allow me to get inside characters’ heads. Only Ever Yours mixed things up though – a YA dystopian novel that takes place in a very appearance-focused Barbie world. Based on the synopsis, I was intrigued.
A lot has changed in the years between modern day and the society of Only Ever Yours. For starters, girls aren’t even born any more. They’re genetically manufactured to be gorgeous, perfect, and all almost identical. The girls, called “eves”, spend their childhood getting ranked by their looks, isolated from the outside world in “School.” This is the life of Frieda and her friends, and this will be their entire lives until they turn seventeen and are assigned one of three jobs in the outside world. They could become teachers to younger eves, concubines, or wives (also known as “companions”) of wealthy men in the society. In order to achieve the sought-after position of companion, the man has to choose the eve at graduation.
Pros: The futuristic setting was eerily well-portrayed. Details like social media, nutrition info, and even the way names are capitalized both mirror and mock current society.
Cons: This was a hard book to read. It wasn’t necessarily boring, but every part of me was mad at what was going on. The book deals with things like eating disorders, sex slavery, and general cattiness. That was rough, but I expected it to some degree based on the synopsis. I kept reading because it seemed that it will build to some sort of satisfying resolution. Maybe the society would crumble, and appearance wouldn’t be all that mattered after all.
That doesn’t end up happening.
In the end the guy chooses the cute girl. Oh, and then the intelligent, not-chosen girls kill themselves. Lovely. What kind of message is the novel trying to send? That sex appeal is all that matters and rejection is grounds for suicide? For a book that claims to be girl-empowering, it seemed depressing, and for me personally, almost sickening.
Sorry Louise O’Neill, but I don’t believe in portraying a dark world just for the sake of being thought-provoking. In order to be enjoyable, a novel has to have some hint of hope. Since reading Only Ever Yours, I’ve been thinking hard about books that explore grittier subject matters like body image and eating disorders but include redemption.
Here are two I recommend: Popular: A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen and How It Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes. Both explore those topics with grace and humor, and I thoroughly enjoyed them…maybe I should just stop ranting and review those instead. (:
Best of luck on your health journey, whether that’s with food, body image, or a stack of books!
This is the second post in a week-long series on food, diet, body image, all that good stuff. You can check out the first post here, and I hope you’ll join the conversation. Do you know any good books or articles to recommend?