Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Review: You Against Me by Jenny Downham

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Title: You Against Me
Author:
Jenny Downham
Genre: YA Fiction
Publishing Information: 416 pages; December 2nd, 2010 by David Fickling Books
Series: Standalone

Where I got it:
E-book from the library

One sentence:
Mikey’s sister accuses Ellie’s brother of sexually assaulting her, bringing two worlds together to test family loyalties and love.

Themes:
Sexual assault, hard choices, family, romance,

Main characters:
5/5
The depth and complexities of Mikey and Ellie made them fascinating. Wow. There were such little intricacies that drew me into their story, like Ellie’s scar from a dog or Mikey’s love for cooking. The hypocrisies that are part of human nature were deftly woven, which made both Mikey and Ellie’s decisions sometimes questionable, but ultimately relatable in their human-ness. Mikey is the ultimate bad-boy who shows such tenderness to his family and those he cares about that you just melt. Ellie was so conflicted but stayed so true to herself that I couldn’t help but love her.

Secondary characters:
4/5
Downham excellent character development pulled through to more minor characters as well. I think an important part of the book was that I had points where I was really downright frustrated with every character, but I could still understand why they did what they did and see parts that made them rounded and gave them human-like qualities, instead of demonizing characters like Ellie’s father or mother.

Writing style: 4.5/5
I’m not always really big into descriptive prose but Downham hit the balance very well. The exposition was a little slow and I had some trouble getting into the story at first, but once I connected with the characters, there was no stopping it from there. I loved how Downham got a rhythm going with dialogue or action and then paused a moment and had Ellie or Mikey reflect a bit. Those moments would startle me out of the action with just a few sentences of gorgeous prose that really hit home. My only downside was sometimes I was confused with how much time had passed, which made it less clear, and that it dragged a little in the middle.

Plot:
4/5
Downham’s mixture of a Romeo-and-Juliet love story with a sexual abuse-crime story made it a dynamic read. Although it was pretty easy to see what was coming and who was lying and telling the truth, Downham’s execution of the plotline was flawless and the timing of everything was nearly perfect. My only concern was the timing of the romance between Mikey and Ellie, because I’m uncertain as to whether their romance would actually have progressed quite as quickly with their backstory.

Ending: 5/5
The ending was entirely satisfying! Without giving it all away, Downham revealed just enough to fulfill me, but didn’t go all Harry-Potter-epilogue on me (can we make that a phrase from now on?). Brilliant!

Best scene:
So many good ones! Um, the one at the cottage. Or down at the river.

Positives:
Everything! The details (the baked potatoes, the pub, the party, the courtroom scenes), the characterization, the fabulous plot, the ending, I could go on and on

Negatives: Some minor issues in timing and the timeline in general, a slow exposition

First Line: Mikey couldn’t believe his life.

Cover: Not my favorite ever: a little plain to really draw me in from the get-go.

Verdict:
Deep and perfectly written. Tackles tough subject matters with grace without telling you what to think. Gorgeous.

Rating:
9/10

1 comment :

  1. 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.

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