Wednesday, March 7, 2012

You Against Me by Jenny Downham

Publisher: David Fickling Books
Pages: 416
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
SummaryIf 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.

The concept of this one is what caught my attention. The brother of a rape victim and the sister of his (supposed) attacker falling in love? HOW COULD THIS POSSIBLY END WELL? (<--this question drives me to read/watch a whole lot of teen-related things)
Here’s the deal: Mikey’s (ouch, I know, that name makes me think of a five-year-old) sister was raped and will no longer leave the house. Mikey and his boys decide they’re going to seek vengeance on the rich supposed rapist, Tom. While seeking his sister’s attacker at Tom’s welcome-home-from-prison gala (ugh, rich people) so he can beat the ever-loving daylights out of him, Mikey discovers that his target has a sister named Ellie. He decides to use his charm to get closer to Ellie and then use her to gain information and access to Tom. Of course, the two end up actually falling in love, causing even more complications in an already dicey situation.
The concept of this novel was fantastic, mostly because it causes the reader to ask, HOW CAN THIS END WELL (see above)? A good portion of the story is about love blossoming between two members of warring families, both alike in dignity (wait, sorry, that’s Romeo and Juliet, the families are absolutely nothing alike in this one), but there is definitely more going on than one would expect. Mikey and Ellie both have a lot to learn about their families and the reality of the situations they are in. Mikey is attempting to keep his single parent (this parent happens to be an alcoholic that tends to disappear) together in the face of a suspicious social worker. Ellie is pulling herself out of the good girl routine that means blindly accepting what her father and brother tell her to do.
Weird thing is, I did not really enjoy the company of any of the book’s characters while reading this book. They were all a bit dislikable in their own ways. Mikey treated his girlfriend at the beginning of the story like she was trash, which I found interesting, considering he lived in a house consisting of himself and three females, most of whom he wanted to protect. Meh. I didn’t find his (eventual) sweet treatment of Ellie to make up for that. Ellie was just a little beige for my liking. She made some pretty good moves, what with getting into a fight and all, but didn’t follow through and become as strong a person as she could have been.
I thought it was going to be fairly predictable, but it was not. For instance, I was convinced that I was going to be sitting through a book in which Mikey courted Ellie for roughly 200+ pages, she’d find out about his secret, there would be the whole HOW DARE YOU LIE TO ME thing that tends to happen in situations such as these and 10 Things I Hate About You (entirely different storylines, I just think both are worth mentioning) and then after a talk in which the protagonists declare their love, they shove aside all the issues to be together, causing the thing that originally drove me to read the book to be thrown away. NOT SO! This book definitely surprised me. Also, I could not guess whether it was Mikey’s sister or Ellie’s brother that was telling the truth. There was so much doubt floating around in the story. Combine that with narrators that are not totally reliable and you’ve got a mystery. Well done, Downham.
Jenny Downham’s You Against Me was an interesting, emotion-driven read. Downham is a great writer that caused the plot to outshine the less than lovable protagonists creating a story that rose above my predictability expectations. I look forward to reading more of Downham’s works.

Rating: 4 - good.

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