You Against Me by Jenny Downham
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.
For some reason I have never got around to reading Jenny Downham’s bestseller Before I Die. I suppose it’s one of those novels where you know it will be a sad and emotional journey and one which I guess I just haven’t had the courage for just yet! But after spotting a proof copy of Downham’s latest young adult novelYou Against Me I thought I’d give it a go.
Downham definitely has the ability to write gripping prose and interesting characters. I found that I couldn’t put it down – I just had to find out what happened next. I do tend to read a lot of fantastical fiction so it was quite nice to read something that felt so ‘real’. I felt like I was following real life families going through a situation which must occur more than we know. Obviously I found Ellie and Mikey the most endearing characters and I found their relationship almost comforting to read about. It developed at a nice pace and it made me feel like I was watching the beginning of something special.
Karyn as a character I found rather annoying at times, which I feel like I shouldn’t be saying considering she is the victim of a rape attack. I could understand her fear of leaving the house and of going back to school where the other pupils would mock her for ‘lying’ about the attack. But what I can’t understand is the way it all changes once it’s all over. It’s like she is a whole new person. Somehow I find that quite unbelievable. She’s suddenly running out of the flat, painting her nails on the balcony, going back to school to sit exams. I think for someone who has actually been through an attack like that – the fear wouldn’t end with the truth coming out or justice being done. It is something that would stay with them for years to come.
When I started reading this novel I had almost hoped for it to be the kind of plot that makes you keep guessing at who the real victim is in this whole scenario. But I did feel like I knew from the beginning. Tom was never a nice character and you could see right through that. I felt disappointed and was hoping for a bit more of a guessing game.
I did find Downham’s writing at times a little stereotypical in terms of her plot. The whole idea of a family growing up on a council estate, where the mother drinks and smokes her life away in her room, where the elder brother has to fend for the whole family – it all felt like it had been done before. There wasn’t anything original about it. Then of course you come to Ellie’s family who live in a nice house protected by large gates, where the father is over protective and narrow-minded. It’s just another story about a boy and a girl who have different backgrounds but through all the odds fall in love isn’t it?
This novel hasn’t changed my life and I’m sure I will have forgotten all about it this time next year but I would recommend it for young teenage girls who enjoy a good gripping read. It does make you think a lot about rape victims and how a lack of evidence can soon make a victim appear more like a suspect. It also shows how attacks like these don’t just affect the victim but their families and friends as well. It can effect every aspect of their lives.
But all in all for me, it read a bit like a Jodi Picoult novel for kids – love, drama and another court case.