Author: Jenny Downham
Release date: 2nd December 2010 UK
Genre: Contemporary / Realism / YA
Target audience: 14+
UK Publisher: David Flicking, Random House
Summary from Amazon:
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.
You Against Me is a story about truth, lies, sibling bonds, broken trust but also love and I think, above all, courage.
The story is told in the third person but it alternates between showing the world through Mikey’s eyes and then showing the world through Ellie’s eyes.
Mikey is an older brother to two girls – Holly and Karyn. Mikey is a pot-washer in a restaurant by the harbour. He has a huge weight of responsibility on his shoulders because his mother has mental health issues. She sleeps most of the day and uses alcohol to take the edge off.
Ellie is from what one might perceive as a stable home. She lives in an affluent part of town, in a large house. Her mum and dad are keen for her to do well in her education. Ellie is revising for her GCSEs and is planning on going to college.
Both characters have a pressure to deal with. But on top of their normal life, there is a crime which threatens to break apart both of their families. Mikey’s sister Karyn accuses Ellie’s brother Tom of rape. When we first meet Mikey and Ellie, both of them are experiencing a roller-coaster of emotion because Tom is about to be released on bail. Mikey is seething with anger. He wants to help Karyn but the only way he knows how is to use his fists. Ellie is anxious to see her brother, to have him home, to have everything back to normal. But you can’t turn back the clock.
The story is more about Ellie and Mikey than it is about the Tom and Karyn. They set their own story in motion when they both try to find a way to help their sibling.
You Against Me had such a convincing narrative voice. I loved the way the tone changed depending on whether we were following Mikey or Ellie. Mikey’s voice felt very masculine. Especially the parts where he is sitting on the toilet or talking to his best friend Jacko. Ellie’s voice is gentler yet she is in no way a walk over. Downham portrays the claustrophia that both experience because of the situation, the feeling that their lives are suddenly out of control and their guilt that they didn’t prevent the situation from ever occurring.
You Against Me pulled me right inside the story. I was desperate to find out the truth as I connected with the emotions of both characters. My instinct tells me this book is for late teens due to the sexual references but it is certainly a book which should be used for discussion. There are truths and such courage inside the pages; I highly recommend you read it. Insightful!
Thank you to Random House Children's Books for sending the book for review.