Publisher: David Fickling Books
Released: December 2nd, 2010
Grade rating: B+/A-
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.
I'm probably one of the only YA readers out there who hasn't read Jenny Downham's debut novel, Before I Die. I do have a copy, but a while ago I made a conscious decision not to read it, as I just can't deal with that subject matter. I'm really glad I had the chance to read something else by her, though, because she really is as good a writer as everyone has been telling me she is. She's down to earth and honest, which in turn means she provides stories firmly grounded in reality.
You Against Me is as good as it sounds. Brave and unflinching, it dares to delve in to the minds of two people experiencing the same earth-shattering event: rape. When Mikey's younger sister, Karyn, accuses Ellie's older brother, Tom, of raping her, their whole world is turned upside down. There are contradicting stories, family loyalties being tested, and an overwhelming pressure from friends and outside parties. Mikey and Ellie striking up a friendship is the last thing you expect to happen, but it works so well. What better way to test your characters than to throw them into the most unlikely of situations?
Ambiguity is present for much of the novel, as Ellie's story unravels and we question everything that has previously happened. Jenny Downham cleverly makes Ellie a girl you sympathise with, as the position she's in is so horrifying. She did irritate me on occasion though, just because of how she changed her mind so often and couldn't was easily swayed by what she perceived to be right. Saying that, if I was ever faced with what she went through, I honestly don't know what I'd do. I guess until you're up against something as serious and as potentially devastating as that, you just never know how strong you can be. Mikey provides her a shoulder to cry on, as well as the support she needs to make the right choice. His involvement in the proceedings is tricky, and I was often left wondering who needed him more: his sister or the girl he was falling in love with?
You Against Me didn't change my life or add itself to my all-time favourite books list, but it made me think about a lot of things, especially how rape can affect families and those closest to the victim. Lives are forever changed by one person's actions, and nothing can ever make it go away. It's one of those important books that should be spread far and wide, and it's one that demands to be read by classes of teenagers. It's definitely an eye-opener, and a hard-hitting one at that. I won't be forgetting it any time soon.