You Against Me by Jenny Downham (ARC) - If someone hurts your sister and you’re any kind of man, you seek revenge, right?
If your brother’s accused of a terrible crime but says he didn’t do it, you defend him, don’t you?
When Mikey’s sister claims a boy assaulted her, his world begins to fall apart.
When Ellie’s brother is charged with the offence, her world begins to unravel.
When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide.
This is a brave and unflinching novel from the bestselling author of Before I Die. It’s a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it. But above all it’s a book about love. From Amazon UK
I read Before I Die a few months ago and absolutely loved it, so I was thrilled when I received an ARC for You Against Me. However, reading the premise, I have to admit, I wasn't looking forward to it. Sexual assault is a subject matter I'm sure no-one likes, but, even though I've never been assaulted, it's a situation I find all too easy to imagine. It's honestly one of the things I think of when I get asked "what are you most scared of?" So reading this book wasn't a priority to me. It's not a fear I like to face in any format. But I've read it now, and all I can say is wow.
I don't even know where to start with this book. It's difficult to read, but not as hard as I thought it would be, as the victim, Karyn, isn't one of the narrators. Still, Mikey having to see her fear everyday was hard, as was being able to understand her not wanting to leave the house, and just stay under the covers on the sofa.
This book is also clever. Until a certain point in the book, was never sure who was telling the truth. Did Tom, Ellie's brother, actually rape Karyn, or was she lying all along? Both Karyn and Tom were saying things that I found plausible, even believable, and I kept chopping and changing my mind over who was telling the truth. I'm really sad to say that when reading Ellie's perspective, and the conversations she had with her brother, I wanted him to be innocent. Meaning, when he said disgusting things about Karyn, I could see his point. I found myself understanding his justifications - if she was going to wear clothes like that, and be all over him, maybe she was a "slag". Then an instant later I'd realise what I was thinking, what he was saying. Behaving a certain way and dressing a certain way does not ever justify rape. Ever. He said it wasn't rape, that she was asking for it. But anger boiled in my blood everytime he insulted her. Rape or not, that is no way to talk about any woman. I just think it goes to show how brilliant a writer Jenny Downham is, to make me waver over who to believe, to see everyone's point, even if it is vile. Just brilliant.
I loved the characters of Ellie and Mikey. Neither were perfect, flawless characters. Both did things wrong, but for what they thought were the right reasons. There were times when I wanted to shake, and sometimes slap, both. But their hearts were in the right place. It was awful to see them both have to deal with so much from their families, when they're also having to deal with an impossible situation - not just the victim, the accused and the parents. It was really heartbreaking at times, and I wanted to give each of them a hug.
The way they were together was just so wonderful, though. So fresh, and sweet. Both were discovering things they had never experienced before, and it was just so, so sweet to see their romance blossoming. But it was hard to see them try to fight it; how can they be falling for the one who's brother raped his sister/who's sister accused her brother of rape? It was sad, yet beautiful all at the same time. It really was just the sweetest thing.
One thing I was a little disappointed with was how it ended. I can't really go into this without spoiling it, but I thought there would have been more. Yet, with hindsight, I can understand having it end the way it did, and think it was probably the best way to end it.
A really phenomenal novel that deals with such a difficult topic in such a brilliant way. If she hadn't with Before I Die, Downham would have definitely found herself a place amongst my favourites with this book. Can't recommend this book enough. This review does not do this book justice, you really need to read it for yourself. You need to read it.
Thanks to Random House for the review copy.
Published: 2nd December 2010
Publisher: David Fickling Books
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