Saturday, 26 November 2011

You Against Me by Jenny Downham

Publisher: David Fickling Books
Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 416
Published: 2nd December 2010
Book: Bought
Genre: Realistic-Fiction, Contempory, Mystery, Psychological-Suspense, Romance, YA, YA-Adult Crossover
Recommended Age: 14+
Contains: Violence, Swearing, Alcohol Use, Sexual References

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. Brave and unflinching, this is a novel of extraordinary skilfulness and almost unbearable tension. It's a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it. But above all it's a book about love - for one's family and for another.

Karyn says she’s been assaulted.  Tom says she’s just “easy”, that she wanted it but changed her mind later.  Karyn’s brother, Mikey, knows he has to do something.  Karyn can’t make it out the door: she barely even makes it out of bed.  To make her feel better, Mikey knows he has to do something to Tom.  And what better way to gather information than by using Tom’s own sister, Ellie?  But then the unthinkable happens, something that changes everything and brings both Mikey and Ellie’s worlds crashing down.  How loyal should you be to your family, when you know that they’re wrong?  How do you choose between your family and the truth?
I read Jenny Downham’s Before I Die and cried like I’ve never cried before.  I picked up her debut and just could not put it down.  I went through a box of tissues.  It’s one of my favourite books, and I couldn’t wait for You Against Me, knowing it was going to be amazing.  And it was: absolutely, undeniably incredible.  How Downham handles such hard subjects and makes them into the most inspirational stories I don’t know.  But she does it in a way that feels so real that it’s like I’m there, like everything she writes about is actually happening.  She amazes me, and this book has left me desperate for her next.
Mikey was amazing.  He would do anything for his sister, even if it meant getting in trouble.  He was just so strong – inspirationally so, actually.  I just could not get over how much he loved his family, everything he was doing for them, for Karyn.  Mikey took care of them all: his alcoholic mum, his two sisters.  Of course, there were times when I had to question his actions and the logic of them.  But I just loved Mikey to pieces – and his flaws and sometimes silly actions just made him more believable and likeable.  His background was really deprived: he took care of his family, didn’t have many nice things.  I loved him more for how he rose above everything and looked after his whole family, holding it together.
Ellie was really vulnerable, broken after what her brother has been accused of.  She was really sweet, and I loved seeing her gain her confidence and strength.  She came from a wealthy  family, and the complete difference of backgrounds between her and Mikey was amazing, and made the story even more powerful.
And I really could feel their love for one another: it was just so amazing and perfect.  The chemistry was so strong and when they were together… everything dropped away, I could feel it.  The way their relationship grew and changed was really realistic too: no love-at-first-sight here, something that made their love even more brilliant.
A superb modern twist on Romeo and Juliet, You Against Me felt absolutely real to me.  I loved every single moment of it.  I was sucked in from the word go, wrapped up in the lives of Ellie and Mikey.  Written in third person, the book alternated between Mickey and Ellie, letting us get into both of their heads and see what life was like for them both.  I loved seeing their fears, the hopes, their emotions.  And, just like in Before I Die, the writing was amazing.  I could feel the emotions: everything.  I could tell the difference between Mikey and Ellie straight away.  Downham’s writing was raw, emotional and beautiful: I love her!  Whenever I start reading anything by her, I just cannot seem to put it down, and before I know it, the book’s over!  She just… bewitches me, and sucks me into her world, like I’m right there with the characters…  I love it!
Just like Before I Die, right and wrong faltered.  In  Downham’s first novel, the moral question was: should you be able to break the rules and live as full as you can when you know you will die very, very soon?  In You Against Me, the theme was more subtle.  Karyn wasn’t your average victim.  She had been flirting with Tom, kissed him.  She drank too much, sex occurred and she says she didn’t want it.  Tom says she did.  Your classic he-said, she-said.  But should a girl in a short skirt see rape coming?  Rape is never acceptable, no matter how the girl is dressed, but for some reason some people think that sexily-dressed girls are asking for it.  Good old Jenny Downham has really got the various roles of women, stereotypes and presumptions down to a tee.  As I said before, she’s a master at the difficult topics.
Family, friends, choices, love, consequences and the hardest of decisions, You Against Me left me with my emotions everywhere and still has not left my mind.  Jenny Downham is my favourite contempory author out there: her books always leave me stunned and desperate for more.  I can’t wait for her next book!

Star Rating: 
5 Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Boys don’t Cry by Malorie Blackman
The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

Challenges It's Taking Part In:
Happy Reading

1 comment:

Zoe Crook said...

I am dying to read this! Amazing review, thanks.