Tuesday, April 03, 2012

You Against Me by Jenny Downham

You Against Me by Jenny Downham

Release Date
: December 2nd 2010
Pages: 416
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Random House Canada
Buy It: Book Depository
If someone hurts your sister and you're any kind of man, you seek revenge. If your brother's accused of a terrible crime but says he didn't do it, you defend him. When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her, his world begins to fall apart. When Ellie's brother is charged with the offense, her world begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide.
I found the setting and language of You Against Me really interesting and unique, even if I didn't totally connect with them. It takes place in England, but not in the transplanted American way that many YA books do, but instead filled with authentic slang and settings that were neat to read about. You Against Me also tackles some important and interesting issues, and it's compelling that way, but for me it was more of an intellectual interest than an emotional one. Mikey, despite the terrible nickname, is an incredibly strong and powerful main character, and I enjoyed his storyline more than Ellie's. I really felt like he underwent some genuine growth throughout the novel, and it's rare to read a story where a character's evolution is so dramatic, and yet still realistic.

I think where the disconnect came in, was Mikey's relationship with Ellie, and it was hard for me to believe they would suddenly connect so strongly and not really care about the consequences. I think the major problem was I didn't quite feel the spark between them. Mikey was a charming character, and Ellie was clearly conflicted but strong– though honestly a lot less interesting than Mikey– but together they didn't quite have the magic I was hoping for, the kind that would really make me believe in what followed.

What I loved a lot about You Against Me, is that like Exposed by Kimberly Marcus, it's a book about a horrible crime, but it's not about the people it happened to. This isn't the story of Mikey's sister, or Ellie's brother– it's the story of Mikey and Ellie. It is so easy to just focus on the victim or the criminal, but novels like these remind us that it's not so simple. That crimes, and actions, have far-reaching consequences, and those consequences can change lives. You Against Me is a book with a powerful message, and even if I wasn't interested in the star-crossed lovers storyline, I still think Downham tells an important story with eloquence and strength.

1 comment:

  1. All the characters are interesting and multi-dimensional. No one is all victim or all bad guy or all supportive sibling. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has moments of reflection and remorse. In other words, everyone is human. They all seemed real to me.

    The story surrounds Mikey and Ellie, siblings to Karyn and Tom--the victim and accused rapist. Mikey listens to his family bash Tom, saying his whole family so rich they're above the law. Ellie listens to her family bash Karyn, saying she was begging for it with her short skirt and drinking too much, and regretted her choice the next morning so she went after Tom and his money. It was really interesting to see the immediate loyalty each family shows, and also interesting to see this loyalty manifested by attacking the other side. That rang true to me. I imagine this would happen often in real life.


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