You Against Me by Jenny Downham is a properly fantastic read. I raced through it, fell for the main characters, was intrigued and fascinated by what was going to happen, could barely put it down, had no idea how it might end – what more can you ask, really?
On picking it up, I was slightly concerned that this seemed to be very much an ‘issue-driven’ book, which I am wary of and usually avoid. And it is, in theory – the story of a boy and girl whose lives become entangled, when the girl’s brother is accused of raping the boy’s sister.
Of course, what makes it is the characters. Mikey is one of the best male characters I have read in a modern book of late – he is simultaneously wonderful and infuriating (though mostly wonderful). I spent most of the book just wanting to give him a hug, occasionally a slap.
Ellie was really well drawn, too – she reminded me of myself, and most girls at that age. Confused, often quietly angry, and tied to the essentially ‘good girl’ role while experimenting with breaking away from it.
Many of the reviews complain that we are not told enough about Karyn (Mikey’s sister) and Tom (Ellie’s brother). I am inclined to agree, but don’t think this detracted too much from what is definitely Mikey and Ellie’s story. However, the character of Tom in particular hints at complexities that are never fully explored and that I would have loved to know more about.
Similarly, Ellie’s parents – in particular her father – occasionally could have done with a bit more, well, humanising. At times, for me, Ellie’s dad was threatening to fall into pantomime villain territory – although the point was that a situation like this creates unexpected reactions, he was the only character with whom I was left with no understanding at all, which is a shame as I would have liked to.
This is a minor point. I whole-heartedly recommend this book and hope you fall in love with Mikey and Ellie as much as I did.
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