You Against Me – Jenny Downham

Synopsis from Goodreads

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

This review contains small thematic spoilers…

“It was strange how words meant something when they came out of your mouth. Inside your head they were safe and silent, but once they were outside, people grabbed hold of them.”

Initial Final Page Thoughts.
Wow, what beautiful ending. And book, actually. Extremely unique, fascinating and honest.

High Points.
Ellie. Mike. Trust. Doubt. Truth. Lies. Perception. Bracing rivers. Baked potatoes. Old cottages. Bunking classes. Cookery. The future. Team Karyn.

Low Points.

Even though I liked the romance between Mikey and Ellie, I’m not sure whether it would have progressed so quickly in reality. I think, with a subject matter like this one, there would have been a lot more anger in there and it would have taken longer for them to turn to each other and realised how they felt.
I kept getting muddled with how much time had gone past in this book, it could have been a little clearer.
But that’s only a little quibble- the rest was absolutely brilliant.

Oh Ellie. You had me conflicted throughout most of this book. One chapter I thought you were ok, the next I loved you, the next chapter I was screaming ‘Ew, if you’re going to come back fighting don’t liken yourself to Jean fricken Grey… do you not remember how that ended?!, and then I hated her. Really hated her. And then I loved her again.
And I ended on loving her.
Ms Downham did a beautiful job with Ellie, a girl in an unimaginable and horrific situation.
But Ellie, my love, stop jumping in rivers. Yes, it sounds fun and edgy and cool but we live in Britain and you’ll catch your death.

Mikey, mind if I call you Mike? I don’t like the name Mikey, it makes you sound about five.
I was a bit worried about you first, partly because you were playing a dangerous game with Ellie and also you were carrying a spanner. Which is never good.
But then I warmed up to you as the book went on… and I mean really warmed up to you.
You’re a bit of a one, you make no apologies, you’re loyal to your family, you’re sweet with Ellie and your friends, you have dreams and you know how to cook.
I didn’t hinder that I was totally picturing you as a Tony Stonem. Boom.

Theme Tune.
This was a difficult song to choose because, as I’ve mentioned before, there were so many issues and emotions covered. But I’ve decided to focus on the, as Mikey said, the best thing that came out of it all.

“He felt perfectly happy as he walked side by side with Ellie, their fingers occasionally brushing, electricity building between them. It was the first time in days, maybe the first time in all his life, that he didn’t want to change anything.”

This book wasn’t a love story… but there was definitely love in it.

Sadness Scale.
It would be really easy to dismiss this book as a modern Romeo & Juliet story (If it had believe me, this book would have been flung out of the window so hard) and about teenagers coming together in exceptional circumstances. But as much as I liked their relationship and it was sweet and tactfully done, I felt this story was about so much more than that.
If a girl is drunk and is raped, it’s her fault because she was the one who put herself into that situation, right? Or if she chooses to wear short skirts she’s obviously “asking for it”, right? If a girl has had previous sexual partners she obvious wants to have sex with everyone, right? And if she goes around to a boy’s house it’s an invitation for him to do as he pleases… right?
It is horrific to think that these thoughts occur at all, never mind how often they actually do in our society.
It’s a complex story about loss, fear, justice, allegiance, doubt and trust but Downham explores them all to great depth with unflinching honesty and respect without ever resorting to manipulating her readers.

Recommended For.
Anyone who wants a beautifully written book about a difficult subject matter. People who don’t mind books without definite answers. People who would be quite happy just to paddle in rivers because the water is freezing.

3 thoughts on “You Against Me – Jenny Downham

  1. (I’m not stalking you, honest. It’s just that I’ve only just found your site, and really enjoying your reviews :-D)
    Another spot on review, though I saw Mike (agree with you about ‘mikey’) as more of a Joe Dempsie!
    Have to take issue with you on one thing though. I too live in britain, but I do like jumping in rivers when the opportunity arises – and lakes and lochs and the sea. Well, maybe not *jumping* – cuz you never know what’s lurking just under the surface! Wading in carefully and then swimming is more my style :-)

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