Only Ever Yours is the most unsettling book I’ve read for a long time. So I had to immediately gift it to my friends. I needed someone to talk to about it.
Set in the disturbing world of an all-girls’ school where the pupils are trained to become the perfect Companions for men, this seems at first to be yet another dystopian set-up.
It is not.
It. Is. Not.
This is pure scathing satire, ripping into our society of relentless adverts and media pressure to look, feel and act a certain way. Girls should be thin. Girls should be hairless. Girls should be pretty. Girls should find a hot guy. Girls should aspire to be on telly.
The awful thing is, I found myself buying into the petty competitiveness of frieda, isabel and megan’s world (lower case intentional – no female’s name is capitalised). All the details of their outfits (chosen and futuristically fitted onto them every morning) are described straight from Elle magazine. Oh to have a messy side-plait!
The clever thing is: not only does it tear girls’ worlds into shreds “with a scalpel” to quote Jeanette Winterson, it also reads as a scathing commentary on many YA books.
Yes, there’s a dystopian setting, but it’s subverted and feels far too real.
Yes, there’s a hot guy, brilliantly named Darwin Goldsmith, but any romance set up is twisted and revealed to be shallow and hopeless.
Yes, there’s a beautiful female protagonist, but is she feisty and rebellious? Is she heck. frieda is passive, helpless, bitchy, and broken. And her ending is one of the most shocking I’ve read.
Brilliant. Brutal. Unrelenting to the final page, this book is as pitiless as 1984; bleaker than The Handmaid’s Tale.
And any Companion over forty?
Oh, they get sent to the pyre.
Ranks with Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman as a must-buy for anyone who has daughters or nieces, and for anyone who thinks that Feminism is a dirty word.