Thursday, 22 September 2011

You Against Me by Jenny Downham

4 Stars. 

Ever since I first saw this book on Goodreads months back I have been anxiously waiting to read it. I was so excited when I saw that it was already out that I neglected to really pay close attention to the fact that the release date I was looking at was the one for the UK and that I would have to wait 5 months for the book to be released in the US and Canada. 
Well I was determined and so ordered myself a copy from the UK. Going into this book I anticipated a darker and more serious story even though it had been written for a YA audience. The subject of rape alone and the he-said she-said premise was enough to warn me that there would be times while reading that I would want to scream. 

Let's talk characters first. I loved Mikey from the beginning and although he isn't perfect I never once questioned his devotion to his family - his alcoholic and irresponsible mother, his eight year old and innocent younger sister, his fifteen year old sister who is suffering a heavy trauma after she claims she was raped at a party. Mikey is devoted in every sense to anyone he loves and at the best of times his devotion causes him problems. Mikey feels helpless after his sister is raped and he is floundering for a way to fix things for her. Him and his best friend Jacko decide they will hunt down the boy who abused her and basically beat him up, putting the plan into motion Mikey never anticipates that he will fall for the boys younger sister. Here is where most of my frustration with the book came into play. I couldn't really decide through out the story if I really liked Ellie or not. She seemed courageous and bold in some scenes and then did a complete 180 and became really pliable and naive and spineless in other scenes. You could tell what Ellie's personality would be though based on who she was with. Her family brought out the spineless quality, while Mikey seemed to make her stronger and more confident in herself. 

I really enjoyed Ellie in her stronger moments. She had an endearing innocence that made me smile while also being more than capable of holding her own while flirting and talking with a boy she barely knew. Mikey seemed to bring out the best in her which is why I became irritated when she time and again tried to convince herself that her brother could never have done something so horrible, when she turned her back on Mikey and his sister, when she tried to push aside the glaring facts of everything she had witness and caved to her family's pressure. Now, none of Ellie's actions are unjustifiable, in fact I could totally understand why she was acting the way she was with her family, but it's hard to read and enjoy a character who refuses to stick up for themselves in key moments. It's hard to enjoy reading a scene where you watch a character lose everything that could make them happy. 

I will say though that the characters, each of them with their flaws and bad choices, also all had their bright moments. The writing was really well done. I have to say that their is something so endearing about reading a book written by a British or Australian author. Something about the language and simplicity of the prose ropes a reader in. The colloquialisms, I think are what make some of the best moments. 

The subject matter of this book is one that is so hard to handle, but I think Downham did a great job of bringing the readers in and making them question the facts alongside the characters. I knew which side I was on from almost the opening page but that didn't deter my enjoyment or hamper my reflection of the characters. 

All in all this was a very well told story with honest characters not fake carbon copies of perfection.

It took me about two weeks to read this book, which is really out of the ordinary for me, but I was moving at the time and had just finished work. I think that had I waited to really sink my teeth into this story I might have enjoyed it a lot more and been able to give it the concentration it deserved. I would recommend reading this book when you really have the time to devote to it instead of picking it up in bits and pieces like I did. 

1 comment:

  1. YOU AGAINST ME is a modern day star-crossed love story. When Ellie's brother, Tom, is accused of raping Mikey's sister, Mikey goes to Tom's house to beat him up. Instead of finding Tom at the door, he finds Ellie. Originally, Mikey thought talking to Ellie would get him information on Tom that could be beneficial to his sister, but their relationship turned out to be more than that.

    In a story where true love is pitted against family loyalty, and truth against lies, YOU AGAINST ME is never dull. This is an awesome book with hard times that produce beautiful things.