Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

she must fight for her future - Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill

"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


Published: May 12th, 2015

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.


Isabel at Breakfast

“What an extraordinary outfit, freida,” megan says, her gaze traveling from the crown of my head to my toes as I fight the urge to adjust my clothes, to cut off my hair, to ask if I can apply for a complete redesign.
“Um, thanks. I like your outfit too! Black suits you!”
“It’s navy.” She arches an eyebrow at my enthusiasm and the tips of my ears start to burn.
“Do you want to sit with us?” liz and jessie chorus, wearing matching turquoise bustier dresses today, the chunky metal straps cutting into their shoulders, their hair set in loose waves.
“I’d love to, but I told isabel I’d eat with her.” The twins lose interest at once, drawing circles in blueberry- speckled porridge with their spoons. “But maybe we can both join you?”
“isabel?” megan says slowly, cocking her head to one side. She’s even more gorgeous up close, her dark looks accentuated by the bland prettiness of the twins.
“Yes. isabel,” I repeat myself, swallowing twice in case excess saliva is making me slur.
“Isn’t that isabel at the Fatgirl buffet?”
And it is. Dressed in a loose black tank over gray leg- gings, she is the only one there, steam from the hot bar curling around her face, obscuring her features. Seemingly oblivious to the girls in the BeBetter line openly point- ing at her, she loads her plate with fried chick-chick and noodles, white bread rolls, soup, and pasta. She dispenses
a hot chocco from the silver beverage tap and covers it with mounds of whipped kream, sprinkling chocco flakes gen- erously over the top until she’s buckling under the weight of her laden tray. I turn away, knowing that she will return to chastity-anne’s desk to pick up a portion of ipecac syrup, and I don’t want to see it. I sit down at once, banging my tray on the mirrored desktop.
“I can’t believe she’s eating Fatgirl food again. Who eats from the buffet? Everyone knows it’s only there to tempt the weak.” megan doesn’t bother to lower her voice. Unlike the rest of us, she’s not afraid of being overheard.
“She’s sitting right by the Vomitorium. It must smell so bad,” jessie says, craning her neck for a better view.
“It would put me off my food.” liz shudders, pushing her bowl away.
“It would take more than that to put isabel off,” jessie snickers as I lift the lid off my breakfast, finding a glass full of a lurid pink liquid underneath.
“I don’t know why she is even bothering to use ipe- cac,” megan says. “It’s not working. She must have gained at least twenty pounds.” She stares at me intently. “What do you think, freida? How much weight has she gained?” She reaches out to touch my hand and I want to pull away. If I pull away, will she be insulted? “It must be so difficult for you, freida, watching a friend degrade her- self like that. I mean, she’s eating pasta.” She grimaces. “Has she said anything to you? What was her weigh-in like today? She wasn’t in gym so she must be on probation, right?”
I wish she would tell me what she wants to hear. I’ll say it. I’ll say whatever she wants if she’ll just stop. I drop my gaze, pretending to fix my hair in the desk before stirring the strawberrie SlimShake with my straw.
“Maybe you could give her some dietary advice, freida. She clearly needs help. That’s what friends are for, right?” megan continues sweetly.
“Yeah,” jessie says. “If anyone needed to try some Slim- Shakes, it’s that fat bitch. Am I right, girls?” She cackles, her voice corroding my will to live.
“But what do you think, freida?”
There’s an ugly silence. I meet megan’s eyes and see the challenge there. She’s drawing a line in the sand and it’s my decision which side I want to be on.
“I guess you’re right,” I answer, the betrayal tasting like bile in my mouth, and she smiles at me.
“I should be more understanding,” she sighs. “I have such a fast metabolism I actually struggle to maintain regulation weight.”
I look at the barely touched eggies on her tray. For someone who struggles to maintain weight, she certainly has an aversion to eating full portions. She and the twins start to fotogram their food, bickering about cassie and carrie’s latest adventures on Chilling with the Carmichaels as they upload the fotos. I rack my brain for something witty to say, something that will make them think that I’m interesting and funny, that will make them want to invite me to sit with them again but my brain is frozen, as if I’ve gulped down an iced slushee too quickly. I’m itching to find isabel’s reflection in the wall beside me. I want to make sure that she’s okay, that she’s not going back for second helpings and thirds and more.
I throw the meds into my mouth and take a sip of Slim- Shake to force them along. They slip down my throat, falling into this black hole inside me. I know they’re making me better. Even if they taste of emptiness. Even if they taste of my weakness.

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. 

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