Sunday 19 December 2010

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Review: You Against Me by Jenny Downham

You Against Me by Jenny DownhamYou 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
Buy on Amazon UK
Buy on The Book Depository

Other Reviews of:
Wondrous Reads
Girls Without a Bookshelf
Fluttering Butterflies
The Bookbag
The Bookette
Sarah's Book Reviews
I was a Teenage Book Geek
I Want to Read That


  1. I definitely want to check this book out, along with If I Die.

  2. It was fantastic! I absolutely loved it! And her other novel is Before I Die, not If I Die - just so know when you go looking for it :)

  3. Sounds fantastic!! I like the storyline and the characters are powerful. Maybe i'm going to find this one. Thanks for review.

    CJ @ Coffee N Crackers

    My Latest Review

  4. No proble! It's such a brilliant book, I absolutely loved it :)

  5. I've been looking forward to this one from the moment I closed the cover on Before I Die. Now, I only wish it was coming out in the US sooner because it's so much more expensive to buy it from Amazon UK and the Book Depository has been out of stock since it was released.

    I may cave and just buy it on Amazon UK though because your review has me even more eager to read it.

  6. Hi Jo :)
    Thank you for the thoughtful review.
    I especially liked how the author made you waver & "feel" both characters.
    I'm going to have to read this now!
    Thanks again,

  7. Nikki - the Book Depository does have it in stock! I shall email you a link!

    Rob - Thank you! I'm glad you liked my review. It's such a brilliant book! I hope you enjoy it if/when you read it!

  8. Aww, this one was great, wasn't it? I loved Before I Die but I think I loved this one more. I wavered a bit as well and I'm really, really surprised that I had such mixed feelings about who was telling the truth. I think Downham did an incredible job with it.

  9. It was fantastic! I was surprised too about not knowing who was telling the truth, I thought it would have been easier to know. I'm not sure I loved it more than Before I Die, though. That was life changing.