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Adam Created eve and the eves Served the Inheritants in ‘Only Ever Yours’

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

OnlyEverYours

Plot: 20/20                                             

frieda and isabel have been friends their whole lives. Groomed as eves at a Euro-zone school, they must go head-to-head to secure their Inheritant – to secure their future – unless they want to face a future as a concubine. As the pressure increases, isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her only asset – her beauty – in peril. The boys – the Inheritants – arrive and are eager to choose a bride but can Frieda’s and Isabel’s friendship survive the ceremony?

The story takes place in a male-dominated dystopia and it’s absolutely fascinating. O’Neill touches on bulimia, anorexia, drug use, sex and misogyny and O’Neill obstacles for frieda that compel you to read further while simultaneously disturbing the reader.

Narration: 20/20

O’Neill injects character into the narrative but better still, she earths us in frieda’s mind so that we’re almost literally seeing everything through her eyes, feeling every emotion and hearing every thought. frieda is a character who struggles to uphold her social responsibilities as this wars with her character and we get inside her head and discover her anxieties, fears and insecurities.

Character: 20/20

I love the characters because, although they are always striving for perfection, ultimately we see the cracks in who they are and who they’re pretending to be. We see the malicious megan, the insecure and unsure frieda, the indifferent yet caring isabel and the cruel chastity-ruth. It’s interesting as well because there’s layers to every character. frieda is struggling to discover herself in an environment where she is being trained to serve men. When she stops taking her pills and chastity-anne hands her them, she has an internal struggle; she doesn’t want to take them but she knows she must because that is what man has dictated. We see it with Megan too. She’ll lie and betray everyone around her to climb to the top. She tells frieda that she’s not a bitch, she’s just doing what she was created and taught to do. It’s these internal struggles and the oppressive nature of the world that give each character a duality; a duality that we can’t always see but makes the reader wonder about other facets of the characters exist. Everything down to the names (Darwin, in particular) conveys character. Genius

Quality of Writing: 20/20

The writing is phenomenal. Jeanette Winterson summed it perfectly when she said that O’Neill “writes with a scalpel” and here’s the proof:

  • “… flickering images anaesthizing us into silence.”
  • “Why do I feel as if there is limescale building up inside of me, clogging my air supply?”
  • “The words fill my mouth like marbles, crammed too tight for them to escape.”
  • “It doesn’t feel like a bridge, I think as she leaves. A bridge would feel some way steady. This feels more like I’m balancing on a tightrope of cobwebs.”
  • “The room expands and contracts like an accordion.”

Setting: 10/10

O’Neill creates and shapes a new world, which to me, is a portrait of our world under a microscope and holds kernels of parallel truth for our own society.Her world-building abilities are second to none. She builds a world even though we only see the school. She anchors us in a particular place and reinforces it with societal elements. The eves’ PE classes are basically pole-dancing lessons and they are forced to carry out domesticated tasks like baking in order to gain favour from the Inheritants. Adam created eve. The eves take pills to supprsess their “Unacceptable Emotions”. eves (women) live only to serve the Inheritants (men); a chastity must have her womb cut out and her head shaved in order to sacrifice of all herself to man; a companion lives to serve her husband; a concubine exists to fulfil a man’s carnal desires. Anything that jeopardizes the balance is eradicated; lesbianism is viewed as an act of defiance and the last time it happened, they sewed up their private parts and shot them through the head. This really captures how high the stakes are for the eves; they can’t put a step wrong if they want to survive.

Comparative Literature: 10/10

I’ve honestly never read a dystopian story as powerful as this. The Hunger Games, though not wholly original, was always the pinnacle for me of dytopian fiction but O’Neill has produced something that is flawless; a story that deeply disturbed me.

Overall Score: 100/100

Rate it or Slate it?

Rate it: Winner of the inaugural YA Book Prize and rightly so. Dystopia that delivers on all levels. Dark and edgy and as Jeanette Winterson summed up: “O’Neill writes with a scalpel”.

Books You May Also Like:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – for a similarly cut-throat, dystopian world of betrayal and secrets

The Maze Runner by James Dashner – for an adventure into the unknown with secrets, betrayals and deceit galore

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‘Captive’ Captivates The Reader

Captive by A.J. Grainger

9781471122927

Plot: 20/20

Captive tells the story of sixteen-year-old, Robyn Elizabeth Knollys-Green, the Prime Minister’s daughter. Kidnapped and held hostage by a mysterious yet seemingly gentle boy, she discovers some dark truths that threaten to change everything she’s ever known. Grainger knows how to ratchet up the tension. We get just enough insight into Robyn’s family and life to before she’s kidnapped quite early on in the story; a great contrast in establishing what and who she has lost. The tension accumulates gradually like a rising wave, demanding the reader’s attention. It’s a breath of fresh air in a market that has become dominated in recent years with vampires, dystopia and fantasy.

Narration: 20/20

Robyn, as the first person-narrator, is in direct harmony with the story. Her thoughts, her feelings, her perceptions; they all need to be felt first-hand versus the loss of  the closeness to Robyn and her emotions that would be lost in third-person. Her narration sets her tone and her age. We experience her resentment of her father’s position and the discord within her family as if we were there. When she’s being held captive, we see a development in her character, the desire to survive; that one element that keeps her fighting. We get, in ways a more resilient Robyn, but also a more vulnerable narrator.

Character: 17/20

While I like the narrative technique, I did feel like we were getting 80% of Robyn. I thought Grainger could have cranked the dial up to 100% and pushed it further.

“If looking like a boiled sweet were in this season, Michael would be right on trend.”

We get some great sharp descriptions that illuminate Robyn’s character though I wanted more. I wanted there to be no doubt in my mind who Robyn is before she’s kidnapped. What Grainger does sensationally though, is to capture the intricate little details -the traumas, the heightened awareness to pain and sensation, to her senses, her perception of her kidnappers and her environments – beautifully. She crafts Feather, Scar and Talon through their gestures and tones of voice.

Quality of Writing: 18/20

The writing veers dangerously into that area of excessive detail. Sometimes, it just needs to be snipped a bit to get to the point. Aside, from that, the story is told in poetic detail. I love tht Grainger changes it up and the first page of the story is perfect:

“Paris. The coldest winter in thirty years. The shivering limbs of trees pierce the deadened sky in the Jardin du Luxembourg. Ice clings to the abdomen of the Eiffel Tower. My father’s blood is a vivid stain on the white-laced pavement outside the hotel. In the distance, the sirens scream, but they are too far away.”

I love how Grainger personifies the trees and the Eiffel Tower and then, in direct contrast, distorts them with the striking image of Robyn’s father bleeding in the snow.

One of my favourite lines:

“‘Words are a powerful weapon. A single word can change a destiny. You wouldn’t waste a bullet – or a nuclear warhead. Don’t waste a word.'”

Setting: 10/10

After the incident in Paris, we are placed at Number 10 Downing Street, an iconic address that most, if not all, will be familiar with. Grainger’s descriptions are so vivid that one might think she lived there at a point in time. The accuracy of the real-life Downing Street furnishings is irrelevant if she can make the reader believe it.  When they go to visit their grandparents, the journey they take anchors us in Central London, giving non-Londers all that they need to set up the scene and picture the River Thames, Westminster Abbey and Parliament.

Comparative Literature: 10/10

I haven’t read anything quite like this. I’ve read stories where characters are kidnapped or taken hostage but never a story where we get to witness a character’s physical, mental and psychological trauma. It’s fresh and new; a story that deserves to be told.

NOW, to Skip to the GOOD BIT:

  • A fast-paced, rollercoaster ride of deception, survival and love
  • Poetic detail that will anchor you in the moment
  • A protagonist that the reader will empathize with

Overall Score: 95/100

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January 8, 2015 · 8:59 am

Truth or Lies in ‘We Were Liars’?

 

 

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

liars

Plot: 20/20

The plot centres around Cadence and her accident on Beechwood Island. She has trouble remembering what occurred and the doctors and her mother refuse to help her, telling her that she must remember in her own time. Nothing is quite what it seems. You’ll fall into her world, trying to sort fact from fiction (in a world of fiction – meta-fiction?) and you’ll arrive at an ending that will leave you breathless and completely stunned.

Narration: 20/20

Cadence has a really poetic way of describing things that imbues the narrative with a sort of fluid consistency. The contrast between long and shorter sentences (even sentence fragments) makes it easy to absorb the information. As the unreliable narrator, she adds another dimension to the story. She keeps you on your toes. She forces you to question everything you hear and the story itself will be a completely different experience for each reader.

Character: 20/20

I was fascinated by Cadence. As a character, I warmed to her instantly. I love how Lockhart personifies her emotion throughout the story. The side characters – Johnny, Mirren, Gat, Mummy – are fine. They serve their purpose and I like them and Cadence’s interactions with them but she’s the star. Her fairytale analogies are interesting and relate back to her character but more importantly, they allow us to understand what is happening on another, more emotional level and also allow Cadence to make sense of everything around her.

Quality of Writing: 20/20

The writing style is simple but beautiful. The fairy-tale analogy is one that I have never seen used in a (YA) first-person narrative in a such a way that it is fused to such a distinct, narrative voice. Usually, sentence fragments tend to annoy me but here, and in the only other exception I can think of, Sally Green’s Half-Bad, they work. The nouns-as-adjectives style works well because it’s consistent:

“He was contemplation and enthusiasm. Ambition and strong coffee. I could have looked at him forever.”

This style of writing literally reflects Cadence’s accident and her ability to recall events.

Some other excerpts that I loved:

  • There is not even a Scrabble word for how bad I feel.”
  • “We are liars. We are beautiful and privileged. We are cracked and broken.”
  • “She is sugar, curiosity, and rain.”
  • “I suffer migraines. I do not suffer fools.”

Setting: 10/10

Beechwood Island is a fantastic, vivid setting. There’s a map before you read the story though you won’t need it. Lockhart captures the detail of the family home in sharp, succinct detail. Though Cadence contradicts herself with other detailing, Lockhart manages to bring the island to life from her perspective which is truly a remarkable feat.

Comparative Literature: 10/10

I’ve never read a book with an unreliable narrator but it is not this alone that makes this book stand out. It’s a single element and it’s this, mixed with the sentence structures, the unique descriptions, the poetic snapshots of the scenes and Cadence’s world and her relationship with the Liars. It’s a story about family and friendship; one of greed and money; lies and truth; love and loss.

NOW, to Skip to the GOOD BIT:

  • Poetic writing style
  • An interesting slant on traditional narration
  • A story that will touch your heart
  • A character that you can’t help but empathize with (though you might find your empathy will be strained at times)

Overall Score: 100/100

Books You May Also Like:

Half-Bad by Sally Green – though the content is world’s apart (literally), the story-telling ability and narrative structures are quite similar

I Was Here by Gayle Forman – I include this here because the connection I had with Cadence, is similar to the one I had with Forman’s narrator, Cody. Also, behind the story, lies a sort-of-mystery, much like Lockart’s tale (***Publishes in January 2015***)

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