Tuesday, November 6, 2012

You Against Me by Jenny Downham

You Against Me
Author Jenny Downham

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.
Review: You Against Me begins a little slow and takes some getting used too, but if you give it a few chapters, you'll quickly fall into the culture and rhythm depicted in Jenny Downham's impossible love story. The contrasting lives of two families living in close proximity creates a push and pull that is realistic and complex. Two portraits that both value love, loyalty and family, but are afflicted by dependency and social divisions. The subject matter does involve an accused rape, but blaring details are spared, and although discussed, (as evidence) is not graphically explicit. Interestingly, the universal prejudices are exposed adding to the 'shame' of the topic. This is more than just a love story, the novel also addresses societal thinking and fears behind the concept of rape in western culture and the unfair scrutiny victims often suffer. Downham puts her two main characters in an incredible situation, a struggle between head and heart, which presents the question, "What would we do?" The magnetic attraction and polarizing draw is felt and the sense that this is true love (even though young) is craftily accomplished without coming across as naive. You Against Me is heartbreaking, inspiring, truthful and not without conscience. My particular favorite moments are the alone times spent between Mikey and Ellie. The tension is electrifying and gave me goosebumps and butterflies!  
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*ARC provided by David Fickling Books courtesy of Amazon Vine

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