You Against Me was the first book by Jenny Downham that I had the pleasure of reading, but it certainly won't be the last one. In fact, the minute I put it down, I went to Amazon's website and ordered her previous YA novel, Before I Die. Yes, You Against Me was that wonderful. Gorgeously written, meaningful, moving and powerful, this book made a huge impression on me. It pulled on my heart strings and left me sobbing - and I'm not exaggerating when I say that this book is a masterpiece.
The plot of this novel centres around Mikey and Ellie, two teenagers who find themselves in the middle of a very difficult and disturbing situation. Mikey's sister claims to have been sexually assaulted at a party. Ellie's brother is the boy accused of the assault, and he swears his innocence. When these two meet, and start to talk, it becomes clear that one of their siblings is lying. The question is which one? And what will happen when they finally uncover the truth? Is their developing relationship strong enough to survive?
The characters in this book are ones that you'll immediately connect with. They'll quickly grow on you and you'll feel emotionally attached to them. All their problems, inner struggles, doubts, fears, hopes and dreams - they're all real. It's virtually impossible not to be affected by this book. Jenny Downham's prose is raw, infused with heartbreaking insight and absolute veracity. It flows effortlessly, weaving a magic spell around you, pulling you into a world of love, affection, loyalty, family bonds, trust and difficult choices. The tension is overwhelming at times, and it keeps you frantically turning pages. It's one of the most readable books I've read this year, totally captivating and addictive.
What I found extremely unique about this book is that it does not focus on the victim and the accused - Karyn and Tom - but rather follows the stories of their siblings, offering a very interesting perspective on things, showing just how strong family bonds can be, and how deeply they affect our own decisions and the way we see things. To me, it was fascinating.
You Against Me is a serious and very meaningful book. The love story featured here is no fluffy, colourful romance. You won't see any bubbles nor butterflies. You'll see a lot of guilt, tears, doubts and internalized battles. Tackling difficult subjects such as rape and its aftermath, loyalty, lies and deception, this is a heavy and disturbing novel, but also one that makes us wonder what would we do in a similar situation. Would we do anything it takes to protect our loved ones? If they get hurt, would we go out there searching for revenge? How far would we go to punish those who hurt someone we love and care about? You Against Me is a thought-provoking read, and one executed with utter brilliance and skill. If you haven't read it yet, please get yourself a copy and read it as soon as possible. You're missing out!