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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review: You Against Me by Jenny Downham

I never liked the feeling I get whenever I read dark contemporary YA novels. More often than not, I tend to shy away from them, because who wants to be depressed while reading books? Isn't it supposed to be fun? But Jenny Downham erased my reluctance with her powerful and thought provoking book, You Against Me.

Title: You Against Me by Jenny Downham
Pages: 413
Release Date: July 7th 2011
Published by: David Fickling Books
Source: Publisher (thanks Random House Australia!)
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository

Summary (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.

You Against Me is all about choices. When everybody says he did something wrong, will you stand by your brother and your family, through thick and thin? At what lengths will you be willing to go just to save a crumbling family? Two of the most unlikely people in the world, Ellie and Mikey, from opposite sides of two families caught in a tragic story, fell in love. And both have to choose.

Mikey and Ellie are part of a family currently picking up the pieces. Mikey, as the eldest, just wants to keep his family as whole as possible, but with a drunkard mother, and the sister who was violated and taken advantage of, a little sister to take care of, what can this eighteen year old do? Ellie, on the other hand, has the perfect life. Or so she thinks until Tom committed one mistake that sent his family in a downward spiral. Ellie was the sole witness to what happened, but can she find the courage to do what is right, or will she choose to keep silent to keep her once proud family together? Mikey wanted revenge, and Ellie is the perfect target. Once their paths crossed, attraction grew, but can Mikey really love the sister of the guy who raped his younger sister? And can Ellie continue on loving Mikey when she finds out that Mikey is the older brother of the girl her brother has raped?

You Against Me deals with a very sensitive topic. Rape. And needless to say, it has opened my eyes about it, and a lot of other things as well. For one, that love can happen at the most unexpected time and place, and in the most unlikely of circumstance. I am not going to deny it, it was like there's a heavy fog hanging through me while I was reading this book. You Against Me's theme is no laughing matter. The hate Ellie gets at school, the blaming, and Karyn couldn't even set one foot outside her house in fear. All of these are real experiences that shows us what happens to victims and attempts to tell us that there isn't just one victim when it happens, not just one life is wrecked.

It's heart breaking to see the struggle within Ellie to do what is right and to keep her family in one piece. Her father was relentless and her mother, though understanding is still a wreck. No parents would want to see their son in jail, whatever it is that he has done. The scandal was destroying the fragile bonds inside her family, and the older brother she knew and loved is slowly transforming to someone she doesn't know, and that's what was scaring her. On the other hand, Mikey's family which was already in shambles were slowly pulling together. It's sad to see that it took that one tragedy for them to straighten themselves and start doing what was best for everyone.

Mikey and Ellie's relationship was confusing but intense. They were exactly what each other needed at that time. Like a modern, tragic Romeo and Juliet from two families tied by one big mistake. No matter how depressing the whole story was, the romance between the two of them felt like the only shining thing you'll get and I loved it.

You Against Me just makes me appreciate the things that I have, my family, my friends and makes me more sympathetic of others. I didn't need to be placed in another person's shoes like what happened while I was reading this. I didn't need to choose where my loyalties will lie, whether I need to be honest to myself, whether to do things that will save others but wreck my own family. Facing all of this obstacles and knowing that it's the right thing made me admire Ellie in a lot of ways.

Deeply engrossing, compelling and nerve wracking, You Against Me is a one of a kind read. It's a heart aching, but truly honest story. It's one that will make you angry, frustrated, confused and sometimes hateful of the characters, but they're all realistic, that somewhere in the world, someone experiences this, struggles like this. Kudos to Jenny Downham!

Content (plot, story flow, character):

Stunning: Worthy of a Goddess' Praise!

Book Cover:

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


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