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!