quippe (quippe) wrote in cool_teen_reads,

You Against Me by Jenny Downham

The Blurb On The Back:

If someone hurts your sister and you’re any kind of man, you seek revenge, right?

When Mikey’s sister claims a boy assaulted her, his world begins to fall apart.

If your brother’s accused of a terrible crime but says he didn’t do it, you defend him, don’t you?

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.

Mikey lives on a council estate in a small seaside town with his alcoholic mother and two sisters and dreams of being a chef. Ellie is from a privileged background, living in a nice house with her brother and parents she’s focused on getting good exam results so that she can go to university.

Their worlds wouldn’t normally meet but then Mickey’s sister, Karyn, accuses Ellie’s brother, Tom, of raping her after a party.

With Tom and Karyn’s friends taking sides, Mickey is determined to make his sister’s attacker pay just as Ellie is determined to keep her brother out of trouble. As the two get to know each other their loyalties are challenged. Each is forced to see the other’s point of view even as they fall in love until ultimately, choices have to be made and consequences must be faced.

Jenny Downham’s follow-up to the bestselling and award winning BEFORE I DIE is a thoughtful novel that revolves around the moral ambiguities of date rape and the affects that it has on both alleged perpetrator and victim and their families.

The voice that Downham gives her characters is sharp – particularly Mickey, a boy who was never academically gifted and whose life was directionless until he fell into cooking as offering a possible way out. However his faith in his sister is never really shaken, which becomes a weakness as the book continues because he’s someone who has sex with a lot of girls and yet never really addresses the situation his sister found herself in from Tom’s perspective.

The book’s events hinge on Ellie’s dilemma and there are times when her motive for standing by her brother don’t quite ring true, with Downham over-egging the determination of Ellie’s father that Tom be acquitted at all costs. Downham also tries too hard to make Ellie insecure – giving her a facial scar and making her more of an outsider to keep the plot working. However I liked the way in which Downham develops Ellie and Tom’s relationship and the way their suspicion slowly turns to something else.

Despite my nitpicks this was an absorbing read and one that kept me turning the pages. Downham doesn’t insult the reader with happy endings – you end the story aware that each character will continue to face problems and issues, but you still root for them and that takes real skill.

The Verdict:

Although I don’t think that this is as great a book as BEFORE I DIE, Downham’s skill in creating a credible voice for her teenage characters is second to none and it is the voice that carries you through this story. The topic of date rape has been done elsewhere but it’s interesting to see a novel that shows the effects on both the alleged perpetrator and the alleged victim together with the strains it places on the respective families. Downham never patronises on the subject matter and while there is little mystery as to who is telling the truth, the journey itself is an absorbing one and one where you root for both Ellie and Mickey. As such, it is well worth a few hours of any reader’s time and I would definitely check out Downham’s next book as she is undoubtedly a powerhouse in teenage fiction.

YOU AGAINST ME was released in the UK in December. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the ARC.

Cross-posted to bookish, books, bookworming, and yalitlovers.

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