Monday, November 7, 2011

Review: You Against Me by Jenny Downham

Title: You Against Me
Author: Jenny Downham
Publisher: David Fickling Books (September 13, 2011)
Source: My Choice; Library

From GoodReads:

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.

I'll state up front that You Against Me by Jenny Downham is not a book for everyone. As the summary suggests, it deals with content that will be difficult and inappropriate for some readers. However, if the content is not an issue, I strongly encourage you to pick up this book. 

It's no secret I'm into psychology. I love thinking about how people handle difficult situations or looking at a situation from an alternative perspective. You Against Me does that. At the heart of the book is an alleged sexual assault. The readers don't know exactly what happened in the beginning of the book and neither do the main characters. What Mikey and Ellie do know is that this event has completely altered their lives and the lives of their family. Each character struggles through a different side of the situation. 

Did Ellie's brother assault Mikey's sister? If so, how can Ellie live with that knowledge? Her brother would never do anything like that, right? 

Was Mikey's sister really assaulted or make poor decisions? Either way, she's closed herself off from the world. Can he help her open herself back up? How does he make sure Ellie's brother gets what he deserves?

These are the types of questions that each character explores. On top of that, the two meet each other. Their interactions together are just as confusing as the situation with their siblings. 

What I loved about You Against Me is the exploration of all these questions in a realistic way. When people think of sexual assault, they often only think of the two people involved. However, there's a lot more than two people impacted. This story explores the family of these characters and how people respond to each other. What would you do to protect your family? I think that's one of the main questions in this book and it is explored fully for both characters. Both Mikey and Ellie have many decisions to make and they have to decide what's right, what's wrong, what's in the best interest of their sibling, and what should they be doing for themselves. 

You Against Me is the perfect book for readers who like introspective reads with realistic characters. There is no happily ever after in this situation, but there is moving on and making the best possible decisions with what you've got to work with. The novel reflects this. 

Final thoughts:  Borrow or buy.

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