Book Review: Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill


Shelved: Young adult fiction (science fiction)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

I purchased Only Ever Yours after it won the YA Book Prize. It was one of the few books on the shortlist that I didn’t already own or hadn’t read, but it was one everyone was talking about.

Louise O’Neill describes Only Ever Yours as The Handmaid’s Tale meets Mean Girls. It is startlingly, painfully real. I’ve read a lot of young adult dystopian fiction and I’ve been reluctant to think of Only Ever Yours as ‘dystopian’  – it’s more ‘speculative’. Even though our society doesn’t mirror freida and isabel’s exactly, if you break it down and deconstruct every judgement, expectation and attitude that the girl’s are subject to, we’re almost already there.

freida and isabel are two of many girls waiting to see whether they will be selected to be wives to wealthy, powerful men and go on to bear his sons. They have grown up in a school that teaches girls how to be pretty and, in the near future, will progress into one of three career paths: companions, concubines or chastities. They don’t get to choose which. Popularity comes with being the most beautiful and the girls are ranked based on how they look and how thin they are. Eating disorders are encouraged and the girls are given opportunities to judge each other constantly. In one particularly dark scene, a girl stands naked in front of the class while improvements from her fellow students are thrown at her. Every time you think Only Ever Yours couldn’t possibly get any more bleak, it does.

Only Ever Yours is a dazzling, well-crafted feminist satire. It all unfolds when isabel can no longer live up to what society wants her to be and we watch as frieda struggles to deal with what she thinks she ought to do and what she feels is right. It’ll make you angry, shocked and outraged – and you’ll want to tell everyone.

Asking For It is Louise O’Neill’s upcoming book, about eighteen-year-old Emma O’Donovan, who is raped at a friend’s party. It is a much-needed novel and will likely be even more difficult to read than Only Ever Yours…

Published: 3rd July 2014 (UK) 12th May 2015 (US)
Publisher: Quercus
Pages: 392

Book Review: Champion by Marie Lu

Book Review: Champion by Marie Lu

Series: Legend (#3)
Young adult fiction (dystopia)
Rating: ★★★★
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Published: 5th November 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile/Penguin Books
Pages: 368

Champion is the third book in the Legend trilogy, so you might not want to continue reading this review if you’ve not read the first book.

I first found out about Legend back in February 2011 and in January 2014, I read the last book in the trilogy. At the end of Prodigy, we were left with the shocking news that Day is sick; he has a brain tumour and will most likely die. But Day and June cannot focus purely on themselves – and their fraught relationship – because the tension between the Republic and the Colonies does not look set to subside any time soon. With Day battling with crippling headaches and trying to keep his brother Eden safe, he has enough on his plate to last a lifetime. And June, as Princeps-Elect, stands alongside Anden while struggling to ensure that she keeps to her own principles. Champion is the explosive finale to one of the most enjoyable YA dystopian series’ out there.

Champion is just as fast-paced and thrilling as the previous two books. Legend fortunately is a believable and well-constructed series. Marie Lu chooses to follow a logical continuation rather than throw unbelievable choices into the mix; politics is tough, frustrating and cannot be sorted out at the push of a button. Anden has to stay true to his word, but that doesn’t mean he does not make some controversial choices. Champion also fills in the blanks that we were left with by Legend and Prodigy – I particularly enjoyed the tense snapshots of Thomas and Metias – and it provides an ending that really does make you feel like you’ve come full circle.  In Champion, familiar characters try to save the broken USA that we’ve come to know over the past couple of years, and it’s not going to be an easy solution…

Day and June. June and Day. Where do I start? They are one of YA dystopia’s most loved couples. In Legend, we now see, they were just two inexperienced and terrified teenagers on the run and now they are among the most revered and trusted. Although, I will admit, it’s hard to believe that it’s up to two young people to save the world, I cannot deny it’s been a pleasure to watch them develop and mature over all three books. We see June and Day become less idealistic – and for good reason – but they are determined to be there for each other, even it isn’t going to be easy, and even if they’re not entirely sure that it’s healthy for either of them. And even if you’ve not been an advocate of June and Day throughout the series, the heartbreaking epilogue is sure to leave you with a tear in your eye.

Legend was one of the drivers of YA dystopia and it’s a series that I always suggest to people who love The Hunger Games or Divergent, but this finale will leave readers more satisfied than the former trilogies did.

Book Review: Genus by Jonathan Trigell

Book Review: Genus by Jonathan Trigell

Shelved: Adult fiction (science fiction, dystopia)
Rating: ★★★
Buy: The Book Depository
More: Goodreads

Genus appealed to me because it’s set in futuristic dystopian London, specifically in King’s Cross – now known simply as The Kross. Many of you may associate King’s Cross with Harry Potter and The Hogwarts Express, but The Kross is anything but magical. It’s dirty, dull, and impoverished; a reluctant home to The Unimproved. You see, in Trigell’s world, physical perfection is easy to attain – for the rich. For a price, your children can be free of disability and disease through genetic selection.

Genus is a vivid and frightening view of London. It’s terrifying not because it presents a world where the human body can be manipulated as easily as anything else, but because, as a result, it creates an even larger divide between the rich and the poor. If we already live in a world where meritocracy does not exist, it exists even less in The Kross.

Genus was unfortunately unable to captivate me completely, not due to the gritty plot, which I rather enjoyed, but due to the writing style. It leans more towards literary fiction rather than the commercial science fiction I’m used to. I tend to assume that dystopian novels tend to focus more on the plot, but Genus instead zooms in on the tiny details surrounding its characters, such as Holman, an old man with an incurable (for him) ailment that means he is unable to walk properly and is permanently in excruciating pain. It was not quite as snappy as I had hoped, being more contemplative and watchful, and I was impatient to know where it was going.

If you’re tired of reading dystopian novels that all sound the same, Genus may be one to pick up. It offers a fresh view of society that isn’t completely far from reality and shows what can happen when perfection comes at a costly price.

Published: 5th July 2012
Publisher: Corsair
Pages: 288
Source: Thank you Corsair for providing this book for review!

Book Review: Prodigy by Marie Lu

Book Review: Prodigy by Marie Lu

Series: Legend (#2)
Shelved: Young adult fiction (dystopia)
Rating: ★★★★
Buy: The Book Depository
More: Goodreads

Prodigy is the second book in the Legend trilogy, so I advise you not to keep reading this review if you’ve not read the first book.

Revenge. Retribution. Vengeance. Rebellious thoughts are running through the mind of fifteen-year-old June Iparis, thirty-five days after the death of her older brother Metias. June and Daniel ‘Day’ Wing travel illegally to Las Vegas in an attempt to attract the attention of, and join forces with, the Patriot rebels who aided them at the end of Legend. But the Patriots are not shy in once again asking for payment in return for help, this time in the form of murder. They want the new Elector Primo assassinated. Will Day and June willingly comply?

Prodigy maintains a fast pace and riveting examination of life in a strict dystopian society – and of the complicated nature of sedition – as in Legend, while continuing to portray an endearing, believable love story between the Republic of America’s most wanted and their star military trainee. Yet not once does this romance get in the way, or take precedence over, a captivating story. It’s not always clear how June and Day truly feel towards each other, torn between trusting what they grew up believing and what surrounds them now. Day questions whether June really is a dependable person despite coming from a privileged background of exorbitant wealth, while Day grew up on the streets, and June questions where her alliances lay – in protecting the Elector Primo or demolishing the system? It would be easy to write a story in which both characters transform into two people with converging beliefs, but Marie Lu shows us that our background is not so easy to escape from. It’s anything but an easy ride for these two dedicated teenagers.

Marie Lu takes us through an unpredictable series of events that show that a repressive society is not always black and white, that those who at first seem abhorrent, or righteous, may surprise you. I first read Legend over a year ago and I was worried that I would no longer be able to follow the storyline, but flashbacks are seamlessly added, meaning that I was able to jump right back in without any trouble. Prodigy is a fantastic balance between an engaging plot and complex, alluring characters.

Legend is shaping up to be a brilliantly fun series that is straightforward in its traditional approach to a dystopian storyline, yet does not patronise its readers, instead taking them through the complicated political mess of living in a world unceremoniously torn in half, with marvellous characters showing us the way.

Published: 29th January 2013
Publisher: Penguin Books (UK) Putnam Juvenile (US)
Pages: 368 (UK) 384 (US)
Source: Thank you Penguin Books for providing this book to review!
If you liked: The Hunger Games, Matched, Delirium, Divergent
Soundtrack: Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars

Book Review: Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Book Review: Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Series: Delirium (#3)
Shelved: Young adult fiction (dystopia)
Rating: ★★★
Buy: The Book Depository
More: Goodreads

Requiem is the third book in the Delirium trilogy, so I advise you not to keep reading this review if you’ve not read the first book.

Back in early 2011, Delirium became one of my favourite novels, and I was lucky to be given the opportunity to attend the book launch. It was my first publisher event and the first time I’d been in a room full of UK book bloggers, some of whom are now friends of mine. Delirium also played a part in fuelling my YA dystopia obsession (first being The Hunger Games). I think it’s safe to say that Delirium occupies a special place in my life – it’s odd to think that it’s now over. I had no idea back then that the books would have become as popular as they have. Emma Roberts has been cast as Lena in the TV adaptation and in a few years, so many more people will have heard about Lena and Alex.

Lauren Oliver certainly knows how to keep her readers wanting more – the end of Delirium and Pandemonium shocked everybody – and Requiem is no different. I am not spoiling it for you by saying that it’s the best outcome we could have hoped for – controversial, but faithful to the enigmatic characters she has created. But let’s start at the beginning.

Requiem is narrated by both Lena and Hannah, set a short while after the end of Pandemonium. It’s wonderful to hear about Hannah again; it means that the trilogy goes full circle and we go back to the two girls at its heart. Lena may be free, but Hannah is anything but. She’s engaged to the young mayor, Fred, the lead campaigner for the persistence of the ‘cure’ and strict regulation. Fred is charming to most, but he has a dark side. (A lyric from All Too Well springs to mind: ‘So casually cruel in the name of being honest’). Lena and Hannah are used to living in opposite worlds – now they do more than ever before. We see their lives collide once again, but it will not be easy to continue as they did before.

Requiem does a reputable job, you’ll be glad to hear, of completing the plot it set up two books ago and bringing everything together. Many questions are answered, but we’re also shown that sometimes it’s impossible to truly discover the truth, that human intentions are complicated and entwined with prejudice. An attempt to triumph over evil is pulling the reader in all directions, and we’re not quite sure where to go. We get to see how complicated life is for Hannah even though she has been cured. And Lena once again struggles with her feelings for Julian and Alex, torn between whispered promises, familiarity and comfort. Yet the reader also sees the bigger picture (something that Lena sometimes finds difficult to do!). Delirium is a love story, but the team we were introduced to in Pandemonium have a higher goal: fight for the right to live their lives the way they want to, and with whomever. Beloved characters suffer greatly, some betray, and some surprise, but Requiem keeps pushing us forward in the name of justice.

Requiem is is a tumultuous and captivating end to a heartbreaking trilogy, ravaged with war while striving for peace. If you’ve read Delirium and Pandemonium, you will not want to miss this!

Published: 5th March 2013 (US) 21st March 2013 (UK)
Publisher: HarperTeen (US) Hodder & Stoughton (UK)
Pages: 400
Source: Thank you Hodder & Stoughton for providing this book to review!