Thursday, November 17, 2011

You Against Me by Jenny Downham

If someone hurts your sister and you're any kind of man, you seek revenge, right? If your brother's been accused of a terrible crime and you're the main witness, then you banish all doubt and defend him. Isn't that what families do? When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her at a party, his world of work and girls begins to fall apart. When Ellie's brother is charged with the crime, but says he didn't do it, her world of revision, exams and fitting in at a new school begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide.
This story shows the aftermath of an accusation of date rape in a very realistic way. The focus is on the families of the parties involved, rather than victim or the accused rapist. People don’t tend to think about how rape can send shockwaves through families—both the victim’s and the accused rapist’s. Sometimes bringing them closer, sometimes tearing them apart. I thought this was brilliant, and the story did a great job of capturing the ordeal that both families go through.

All the characters are interesting and multi-dimensional. No one is all victim or all bad guy or all supportive sibling. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has moments of reflection and remorse. In other words, everyone is human. They all seemed real to me.

The story surrounds Mikey and Ellie, siblings to Karyn and Tom—the victim and accused rapist. Mikey listens to his family bash Tom, saying his whole family so rich they’re above the law. Ellie listens to her family bash Karyn, saying she was begging for it with her short skirt and drinking too much, and regretted her choice the next morning so she went after Tom and his money. It was really interesting to see the immediate loyalty each family shows, and also interesting to see this loyalty manifested by attacking the other side. That rang true to me. I imagine this would happen often in real life.

Both Mikey and Ellie set out to protect their siblings, which is how their paths cross. Against all odds, they like each other, but the obstacles between them are huge. I really liked how their romance unfolded, and how each grew and changed as they got to know each other. This story really focuses on how they deal with their broken families, and also come to terms with each other. The trial is in the background, and I’ve heard some readers complain that we don’t get more information about it. But I was okay with that, because this wasn’t Karyn’s story. Or Tom’s. I really liked how Mikey and Ellie end up, and I liked how some things were left up in the air. That’s more how real life is.

I haven’t read Downham’s first book, Before I Die, yet. But I will. You Against Me is so poignant and well-written that I can’t wait to read more of Downham’s work.


LM Preston said...

That's an interesting plot. Makes me want to read it.

Kelly Hashway said...

This isn't the type of story I usually gravitate towards, but you gave it such a good review I'm interested.

The Writing Goddess said...

You make this sound very intriguing, though normally a story about rape doesn't sound like much in the way of entertainment. And you tell about without revealing too much. very cool.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

A great review. It sounds like a story that will hold your interest. Thanks.