Published by Quercus on July 3rd 2014
freida and isabel have been best friends their whole lives. Now, aged sixteen and in their final year at the School, they expect to be selected as companions – wives to wealthy and powerful men.
The alternative – life as a concubine – is too horrible to contemplate.
But as the intensity of the 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…
I have a lot of feelings about this book. Just so many. Here’s the general theme of them though: Read. This. Book. Seriously, I am not saying that because it was fun and enjoyable, because it simply is not. It is hell on paper. Exquisitely written, horrifyingly realistic hell on paper. Basically, I am just going to list why I absolutely implore you to read this book, okay? Great.
Kidding, kidding. Kind of.
- This book is way, way too close to how our society actually thinks/feels. frieda is terrified of gaining an ounce. She is terrified of her hair being out of place. Her whole life literally revolves around pleasing other people and appearing perfect. There were too many moments while reading this book that I had to put it down because I was shaking, eyes brimming with tears, realizing that I have absolutely, 100% said some of the exact same things frieda said to herself to myself.
- If you are female, you need to read this book. Now, I know there is many a confident woman out there, and if you are among them, I both applaud and admire you. But far too many of us critique and criticize ourselves, each other, or both. Too many of us worry about how we appear to others, both physically and emotionally. Without a doubt, this book will make you take a good, hard look at how you treat yourself and others, even if it is not consciously.
- If you are male, you need to read this book. Of course not all women think like frieda. Nor do all men want a stereotypically “perfect” woman. Here’s the thing: society still treats women differently than men, and I don’t think anyone would argue that. Women have made amazing strides, but there is so, so much more improvement needed. Whether you have female friends, a significant other who is female, a mother, a sister, a grandmother, this is a gritty look into the biases women face on the regular.
- The writing is breathtaking. Take everything else out of the equation. The writing in itself is phenomenal. Each sentence has meaning, each word both poignant and necessary. Louise O’Neill is just so completely masterful at getting her point across in the most beautiful of ways, I would and will read any book she writes. (And there are no typos, the names are like that for a reason, one you’ll likely understand.)
- The plot is amazing. Yes, after all the other stuff that makes this a fantastic book, the plot just went ahead and was just as great. I stayed up until 5:30am to finish this book because I positively needed to know what happened. Then sat around for another 45 minutes in shock and awe and tears.
- The characters will make you feel…. things. Vague, no? Well, different characters, different things at different times. Oh, still vague? Yes, yes. But they are so, so multi-dimensional. They have flaws, my goodness they have flaws. And isabel is such a huge mystery, both for frieda and the reader. megan will make you want to throw your book many times, but then… so will everyone else, just not all the time. There is a touch of romance too, but that comes into play a bit later.
Intrigued? You should be. This is probably the most gripping, gut wrenching book I have ever read. I didn’t like this book, I don’t know that it is possible to like this book. But I was captivated by it. It is honest and brutal and so damn necessary.