Only Ever Yours – by Louise O’Neill

Dystopian

Only Ever Yours is a dystopian book about a world in which women, called ‘eves’, are designed and synthetically produced (instead of being born naturally), their sole purpose being to satisfy the needs of men. Eves are brought up in schools by strict teachers, called ‘Chastities’, who train them in the arts of pleasing men. At graduation, the most highly ranked eves are made ‘companions’, living with their husbands and breeding sons until no longer useful. The narrator, freida, (the eves’ names are not capitalized, highlighting their irrelevance in the society) has been best friends with isabel since her design, but as the pressure to be perfect mounts up, isabel starts to seemingly give up, gaining weight, and the girls who were once so close rapidly drift apart. freida, determined to remain popular, betrays her only true friend.

The world in which Only Ever Yours is set is an interesting and insightful exaggeration of our culture today; it warns us of what is to come if we don’t change our ways. After reading the blurb and the first couple pages, I had high hopes and an already strong interest in the book’s plot and characters. However, by its middle, my hopes remained unfulfilled: the characters lacked dimension, and the plot was repetitive and slow-paced. Overall, the book left me underwhelmed: characters needed more depth, particularly isabel, who was not as intriguing and intelligent as she evidently was intended to be. The icing on the cake for me was the irritatingly inconclusive ending: after suffering through 380 depressing pages, I was offered no mercy or closure. Perhaps it was for ‘effect’; I think, however, it was simply a cop-out. The book had great potential to be heart-wrenching and thought-provoking, but was unfortunately badly executed.

Despite this somewhat negative review, I think you might enjoy this if you like YA books, particularly those about women’s position in society. It’s quite slow-placed at times, so I definitely would not recommend this book for people who prefer fast-paced books.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAA

Writing: AAAAAA

Pace: Slow/Medium 

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The Elegance of the Hedgehog – By Muriel Barbery

Romance

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is about the inhabitants of an affluent Parisian apartment building. Its split narrative is from the perspectives of a secretly intelligent and well-read concierge, and a twelve-year-old girl who plans to commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday. They seem to lack passion and happiness, until a new arrival to the building breathes new hope into their lives.

Up to the middle of the book, I had come close to putting it down a few times. It’s pretentious and aloof, and despite proclaiming that its narrators are highly intelligent, it lacks proof of this. It’s unnecessarily wordy and full of itself; every other page seems to have a block of text describing a pretentious thought or feeling on life, which at least to me seemed either obvious, or nonsensical.

Overall, I struggled to find The Elegance of the Hedgehog’s underlying message. Perhaps I was missing something, but it seemed to me that I was meant to have been inspired by its so-called ‘Profound Thoughts’ and ‘Journal of the Movements of the World’. I didn’t find them profound, just tedious to read. However, it is heart-warming, especially as it progresses, and I couldn’t help but enjoy it. I think its sweet, romantic love story is quite irresistible.

You might enjoy this book if you like books that take a shot at being philosophical, although I think it has an absence of substance. It’s a slow, tedious read, but surprisingly rewarding near the end.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAA

Writing: AAAAAA

Pace: Slow