Tag Archives: School

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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Me and Mr. J

Me and Mr. J by Rachel McIntyre

j

Plot: 20/20 

Lara, an upbeat girl, is a social outcast at school. Her only friend has deserted her, the bullying is getting worse and between this and family drama, Lara fixates on Mr. J – the only beacon of hope in her life.

I read twenty pages of this and I honestly thought, Holly Smale’s Geek Girl. I loved Smale’s Harriet Manners, that her story was infused with humour and a roller-coaster adventure of self-discovery. But when Lara’s iPod gets smashed, that changes everything. She’s spat on, she suffers verbal and physical abuse and somehow, she manages to find a glimmer of hope. The story is a realistic one that a lot of bullied kids will relate to; a story that’s equal parts dark and light with laughs and love. I can’t fault the plot. The idea isn’t original but the execution is fantastic.  

Narration: 20/20 

The narrative style is a diary format. It’s personal and the emotion flows of the pages and sucker punches you in the face. The intimate style makes the weight of the emotions and the emphatic connection (to Lara) makes it that much easier to laugh at the humour and persevere through the hideous bullying and all-round isolation both in her school and home life.

 Character: 20/20 

Lara is an incredibly likeable character who’s observations heightens the characters of those in her life. Take her Gran, for example. Lara makes her five a day and makes a follow-up quip about it being about her gin units rather than fruit and veg. Lara, herself, is fascinating. When Lara imagines her dream life with Emma, she paints an ideal picture but with some cracks – the windows rattle with the wind. It’s a further demonstration of Lara’s hopeful make-lemonade-with-lemons, make-the-best-o-what-you-have attitude. She dreams about a successful life in which she’ll repair her parent’s marriage and so on.

Here’s some of my favourite moments:

  • “My internal monologue went like this: Firstly, I don’t have any friends, not even Chloe. And secondly, FYI, Mum, Molly is a ‘nice girl’ in the same way Hitler was a ‘real sweetie’.”
  • “But then instead of staying quiet and walking off (sensible option), I carried on not alone digging my own grave, but picking the flowers, talking to the vicar and writing the eulogy (metaphorically speaking).”
  • “Bet Molly hasn’t told him she gets mega-minging cold sores though. (Cue advert voice: Herpes – the Valentine’s gift he’ll keep forever.)
  • “Molly whispering to a few of her fellow Slytherins.”
  • “Seriously, it’s the equivalent of trying to put a bonfire out with petrol.”
  • “Successfully disguising my own personal animosity, I pointed the fat bastard up the stairs.”
  • “Where do they recruit bus drivers? Jobs4knobs.com?”
  • “Mikaela is so dumb, her brain couldn’t find the right answer if you gave it a compass and a fifteen-minute head start.”

Quality of Writing: 20/20 

Lara’s witticisms are sharp and funny. McIntyre’s dramatisation of detail constantly  and consistently reflects Lara’s character (which few YA writers can manage):

“She was sitting behind a desk the size of Belgium.”

Setting: 10/10 

The story is set in Huddersfield. I’ve never been though it’s set up nicely. The detail is dramatized in the story. It’s easy to pick up the information and it’s reinforced subtly throughout with pound shop references and the like:

“This is Huddesfield, not Hollywood. You can’t wave a mascara wand and abracadabra, Lara’s the Prom Princess.”

Lara’s reference to the things she’ll be able to do when she turns sixteen firmly sets the story in the 2010s:

“And (according to the Gospel of Wikpedia) sell scrap metal. (Er, fab).”

Comparative Literature: 10/10

As I’ve already said, the story reminds me of Holly Smale’s Geek Girl. Smale’s character is arguably stronger, as much of a social outcast and we root for her because of the way she’s treated. The story is, as funny if not funnier but, and there is a huge BUT, McIntyre weaves a darker story that she lightens with moments of hope and laughter. Me and Mr. J matches the humour of Smale’s Geek Girl and the heart and hopefulness of Maya in Popular.

Overall Score: 100/100

Rate it or Slate it?

Rate it: A dark and sometimes difficult read, told by a character that demands your attention. A fantastic YA debut.

Books You May Also Like:

Geek Girl by Holly Smale – for another story of a social-misfit-turned-model with love and laughs along the way 

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen – for an honest, brave memoir delving into the meaning of popularity

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March 20, 2015 · 6:02 pm

13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons Why

Title: 13 Reasons Why

Author: Jay Asher

Publisher: Penguin Books

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Standalone

Pages: 304

 

Plot: The plot orbits around a young girl’s suicide. I haven’t seen this done before in YA – at least not to such a high standard. Told through a series of 7 two-sided tapes (with the exception of the last which is one-sided), Hannah takes us on an eerie journey from the first moment she starts to feel depressed and isolated right up until the moment she resolves to take her own life. The plot moves fast and is interspersed with what Hannah tells us on the tapes and Clay’s thoughts and actions as he listens and gets to grips with what she reveals.

20/20

Narration: The narrative style is genius. Told from Clay’s point of view in first-person but the tapes add an extra layer. Haunting and chilling, Hannah’s voice comes through loud and clear. The narrative voice when interspersed with Clay’s thoughts can get a little jarring sometimes.

17/20

Character: I think Hannah is the star of the story and not just because she is a tragic case. It’s because her voice is so strong in the tapes and that even though we know what happens, we still want Hannah to fight and we want her to choose life. She demonstrates humour and real pain and her character lets us see suicide not as a selfish act, but a cry for help and in Hannah’s case, she doesn’t get the help she needs. The other characters, Clay, his Mom and Dad (etc.) all function as would be expected. I think we could have seen more character from some of the others but at the same time, that would have detracted from the poignancy of the story and Hannah’s character.

20/20

Quality of Writing: There are some great phrases and the language used by both Clay and Hannah is, most of the time, easily discernible. The only criticism I have is that I felt, at times, the descriptions could have been a little bit sharper.

16/20

Setting: This ties in with the tapes which makes it more profound. From the rocket slide where it all begins to the school and the sweet shop Hannah visits after school, we always know where we are. We see this places physically through Clay’s eyes but they are reinforced by Hannah in the tapes when she tells us what they mean to her.

10/10

Comparative Literature: Asher crafts a magnificent story, touching on some crucial issues like bullying and suicide. As I’ve already said, I haven’t seen anyone else tackle this issue in such a hard-hitting way. It’s a book that makes you think and it will stay with you long after you finish it. The initial reason for Hannah’s spiral can seem a little bit melodramatic on her part but it’s the betrayal she feels by all these people, what they do exactly and how that takes away her confidence, her safe places and how it gives her an unwanted and undeserved reputation. See below for reading suggestions!

10/10

Overall Score:

93/100

NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…

  • Unique narrative style
  • Tragic, hard-hitting story
  • A story that will change the way you think and stick with you long after you finish it

Books You May Also Like:

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen – another book that will stay with you long after you read it

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green – for another warm, tragic story that will change the way you think

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April 4, 2014 · 11:41 am