Title: Only Ever Yours
Author: Louise O’Neill
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Where women are created for the pleasure of men, beauty is the
first duty of every girl. In Louise O’Neill’s world of Only Every Yours
women are no longer born naturally, girls (called “eves”) are raised in
Schools and trained in the arts of pleasing men until they
come of age. Freida and Isabel are best friends.
Now, aged sixteen and in their final year, they expect to be
selected as companions–wives to powerful men. All they have
to do is ensure they stay in the top ten beautiful girls in their year.
The alternatives–life as a concubine, or a chastity (teaching
endless generations of girls)–are too horrible to contemplate.
But as the intensity of final year takes hold, the pressure to be perfect
mounts. Isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her beauty–her only asset–
in peril. And then into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive,
eager to choose a bride. Freida must fight for her future–even if
it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known.
A Guest Post from Louise O’Neill
There are two questions that everyone asks, when they hear that I’m an author.
1. “Where do your ideas come from?
This seems to imply that I’m either stealing my ideas from other people (I’m not. I promise) or that I’m likely to run out of ideas in the near future. Both options are terrifying and haunt my dreams now.
2. Did you always dream of being a writer?
The second question is easier to answer without breaking out in a cold sweat. No, I didn’t always want to be a writer. I wanted to be an actress although there was a brief period where I thought I might become a nun much to the delight of my grandparents. The joys of a Catholic childhood. While I didn’t harbour any ambitions to become an author, I always wrote. I kept journals from the age of eight, I wrote short stories and incredibly bad poetry as a teenager. Writing was my way of making sense of the world. Sometimes, I have to sit and start to write before I can begin to understand how I feel about something in my life. My opinion is formed through my pen.
I studied English Literature at Trinity College, Dublin and it was here, walking on the same cobblestones as Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, and Samuel Beckett did before me, that I decided I would try to make words, beautiful words, my career.
Life is not always so simple.
At 25, I started working as a fashion intern for the Senior Style Director at ELLE magazine in New York. There are no “The Devil Wears Prada” type stories – she was lovely and kind and supportive. Yet I wasn’t happy. Faced constantly with fashion’s obsession with extreme thinness, the anorexia that I had battled as a teenager re-surfaced and I relapsed.
It was January 2011. I was sitting in a Starbucks in Brooklyn, waiting for the Q Train to start running again. I was reading a trashy gossip magazine, poring over photos of celebrities with ‘circles of shame’ drawn around their cellulite, stomach rolls, sweat patches. There is a woman sitting near me who is eating a muffin and I am fascinated by her. How can she eat that muffin and seem so carefree? Why is she not having an existential crisis over the calories that are in that muffin?
I was hungry. I wanted a muffin. But I thought if I ate a muffin, I would get fat. If I ate a muffin, I would have failed.
Suddenly, a vision flared in my mind. It was bold, bright, beautiful. It was a young girl, standing in her bikini in front of a classroom while an older woman with a bald head was standing in front of her. The older woman had a red marker in her hand and she was drawing circles around the young girl’s ‘fat areas’ while the rest of the classroom chanted FAT. FAT. FAT. I grabbed my notebook and I started writing.
A world in which girls are bred for their beauty.
Why? Because women are no longer able to bear daughters. Their wombs will only accept a male fetus.
I sat in that coffee shop for two hours, scribbling pages and pages of notes but it wasn’t until March 2012, when I had returned home to Ireland, that I started to write what would eventually become Only Ever Yours.
I began sending it to literary agents in November 2012 and the reaction was instantaneous. Within a week, agents wanted to see the full manuscript. I had offers from five agents, some of whom were amongst the most well respected in the world. I had offers from a number of different publishers, finally signing with Quercus in May 2013.
Only Ever Yours was published in Ireland and the UK in July 2014 and my world has been irrevocably altered. While the awards and the rave reviews are gratifying, it is the reaction from readers that has been incredibly humbling. I receive letters and emails almost daily from women who want to share their stories with me and who want to tell me how my book has changed their outlook on life. That people have connected on such a deep emotional level with my work is something that I dreamed of but could barely hope for.
I truly hope that you enjoy Only Ever Yours. You can find me on Twitter @oneilllo to either message me or to read my increasingly inappropriate ramblings!
About the Author
Louise O’ Neill is from Clonakilty, in west Cork. After graduating with a BA in English Studies at Trinity College Dublin, she went on to complete a post-grad in Fashion Buying at DIT. Having spent a year in New York working for Kate Lanphear, the senior Style Director of ELLE magazine, she returned home to Ireland to write her first novel.
She went from hanging out on set with A-list celebrities to spending most of her days in pyjamas while she writes, and has never been happier.
Advanced Praise for Only Ever Yours
“Terrifying and heartbreaking, O’Neill’s story reads like
an heir to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and
M.T. Anderson’s Feed, and, like those books, it’s sure
to be discussed for years to come.”
—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“A dark dream. A vivid nightmare. The world O’Neill
imagines is frightening because it could come true. She
writes with a scalpel.”—Jeanette Winterson
“An ingenious exploration of gender roles, female
identity, and female competition.”
“Unbelievably believable, compelling, utterly riveting…
Whilst it is dark, uncompromising and utterly daunting
to read as a woman, it is and should be a classic
in the making.”—Liz Loves Books