Pages: 411 pages, paperback
Acquired: Sent for review by Random House
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.
My review: Well, Jenny Downham had quite a job to outdo herself with You Against Me, considering her debut novel, Before I Die, was undoubtedly one of 2007’s biggest successes. I was worried that her second offering wouldn’t quite live up to the brilliance of her first book but I’m pleased to say that she’s done it again.
Her signature prose that we all fell in love with in Before I Die is back again in You Against Me and I instantly relaxed into the wonderful story, told in such a beautiful way. I don’t know what it is exactly that makes Downham’s prose flow so well and with such ease but, whatever it is, I’m a big fan. I knew from the second I cracked the spine that I was in for a treat and my attention didn’t wander for a moment.
The characters here are great and I really felt a connection with both Mikey and Ellie, despite their young ages. I think she got their voices spot on, both were mature enough that I enjoyed reading about them but Ellie, in particular, still retained enough naivety for her to be believable.
I love the decision that the two youngsters have to make, whether they want to give in to their feelings for each other or side with their families. It’s such a tough decision and I think Downham dealt with it wonderfully.
Another thing I really appreciate about Downham’s writing is that she never patronises her readers and she doesn’t feel the need to wrap up every single loose end in the story. I personally like a bit of scope to work some things out for myself so I do like that we’re able to draw a few conclusions of our own at the end of the story.
If you haven’t read You Against Me (or Before I Die) yet then you really are missing out. Hands down this is one of my favourites of 2010 and I really hope it does as well as Before I Die. It’s a fantastic second novel and I’m so excited to see what the wonderful Jenny Downham releases next.
First line: ‘Mikey couldn’t believe his life.’
Read if you liked...: Before I Die – Jenny Downham
Total: 18/20 (A)
Before you go check out the video below to see Jenny talking about her inspiration for the book - it's brilliant so do take the time to watch it!