You Against Me
December 2nd 2010
David Fickling Books
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 skillfulness 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.
You Against Me is a seriously amazing book. I'd heard great things about Jenny Downham, so I knew I was in for a bit of a treat, but I didn't expect it to be as good as it was. I don't think I've ever even thought there was that many sides to sexual assualt case (or any case, really) than were represented in this book. As well as it just being great and easy to read, it made me think and almost sympathise with people I never thought I'd ever see some good in. And I think that was one of the great things about this book, none of it was black & white. All the characters had shades of grey. They were like real people. Three dimensional. Made me realise why contemps are so bloody good.
I really liked both Mikey and Ellie. I was completely rooting for them through the book, because despite everything they were just really great together. Even though for the first half of the book they were using each other, you could tell that they just liked each other, regardless. And even when they weren't with each other, I really enjoyed seeing the situation from the perspectives of both families. When you hear about sexual assualt cases, I only ever think about the victim. I've never thought, before, about the other family that'll get ripped up because of it. I didn't like Tom or Karen that much, though, but all of their behaviour was completely understandable.
Ellie and Mikey are really a sort of modern day R+J (as much as it pains me to reference that... :S) They're not meant to be together, their families don't want them together, heck, they're not even that sure they should be together! For the first bit, anyway... But still, as they get to know each other more, and as the truth is slowly revealed about the case, things start to get a little bit easier for them, as a couple. But worse for their families.
I think one of my favourite parts of the book was when Ellie's family had fallen out with her, because of certain circumstances involving the case, and at the beginning it was kind of sucky for her because her family were under the impression that she'd betrayed them and that she wasn't on their side any more, and were pretty much ostracising her from the family, but then her mother started to take her side. It was like they'd just forgotten about her for most of the book, and that it was all about Tom, but then, despite everything, her mother had the realisation that this is also her child, her family, and that she needs looking after too no matter the circumstances. I liked that even through all of the problems, and the brokenness there, that there was this new, growing sense of family starting. That yes, something really crap has happened, but there might be a chance that they might actually start to deal with the reality. NOt get over it, but just start to accept it.
You Against Me is a great, interesting, enjoyable book about Rape and how it can affect both sides. It'll make you think more about these sorts of situations, plus Jenny Downham is just a fantastic writer. I will be sure to pick up a copy of Before I Die soon!