Author: Ellie O’Neill
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
The Right Girl is Ellie O’Neill’s third novel and I really enjoyed both Reluctantly Charmed and The Enchanted Island so I jumped at the chance to read it. I didn’t even read the blurb before starting so I had no idea what I was in for.
There has been a quirkiness to Ellie’s work, her previous novels focused on the magic of Ireland and so I think I was expecting something a little more along those lines. The Right Girl is something very different and disturbingly topical, set five years in the future.
Freya is finding success in all aspects of her life; her florist business is booming, she’s just been approved for a loan and she just got engaged. Everything is falling to place and life couldn’t be more perfect… or could it?
It took me a while to get really hooked into this story and I think that’s simply because I found it so disturbing.
A lot of anxiety is caused by having to make decisions, and when you think about it the number of decisions people have to make in a day is staggering. Many of them don’t really feel like decisions, they are such an ingrained part of the day. How much simpler could life be if we had all of that indecision removed…. This is one of the major themes O’Neill explores in The Right Girl.
Currently we live in a society that is very attached to it’s devices, and there is pretty much an app for everything. So what about an app to help with all those pesky decisions you have to make on a daily basis. It is scary to think how much of our lives we entrust to electronic devices, and how much we rely on them now so it wasn’t that much of a stretch to envision a day, not far in the future, where we upload all of our digital history into an app and then let it make our decisions for us. It’s really late and I’m really tired but I really want to say that it was almost a cross between the magic 8 ball and something out of a terminator franchise movie.
Freya has it all and according to the BBest app she is a 93% match with her new fiancé Marcus, except that the two don’t seem to have a lot in common. Their very first date was awkward and they probably wouldn’t have persevered but BBest says they’re a 93% match so maybe they just need a little time to grow on one another, so they persevered through a few more dates and a few more until they end up engaged. Freya wants to question it but is ingrained to think that BBest always knows best.
The Right Girl is a journey into a disturbing future where all decisions are put to the BBest app and you are offered three options, with one flagged as the BBest recommendation and you are ranked on how often you choose the recommended option. There are consequences for not choosing the preferred option, and they aren’t often pretty. O’Neill’s new future shows a disturbing lack of free will and the worst part is it’s something everyone willingly handed over. It started small, with seemingly innocuous decisions but then the app diversified until it became a part of all decisions and controlled more and more aspects of people’s lives and they didn’t realise how much control they were handing over until it was too late.
Freya has handed over so much of her decision making and is thrilled with the way her life is panning out that she doesn’t question what is going on, until she meets someone who affects her.
The Right Girl has elements of romance but it is more of a warning I think, a reminder that there are consequences for blindly handing over little elements of control. O’Neill also explores what happens when people start to wake up to their lack of control.
The characters were well drawn and quite enjoyable to get to know. The story unfolded with steady pacing and kept me wanting to know what was coming next. Most of society may be happily handing over control of their lives but there will always be those who can see the bigger picture, those who are willing to fight for what they believe in.
The Right Girl is an insightful read with disturbing elements that I would recommend unreservedly. It is a book that will appeal to a range of readers and certainly made me think about the role of social media in my life.
The Right Girl is book #7 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2018.