You Against Me - Jenny Downham

You against Me was a book I had wanted to read for quite some time. I was not disappointed. This was a real powerhouse of a novel. It kept me gripped from the first page right to the very last.

Mikey McKenzie: Mikey's world has just been turned upside down. His younger sister Karyn has been raped and is now refusing to leave their flat. His mother, an alcoholic, is spiralling out of control in her inability to deal with what has happened, and it is getting near impossible for him to get his younger sister Holly to go to school and social workers are now breathing down their necks.

Ellie Parker: Ellie is the younger sister of Tom Parker, the boy accused of raping Karyn McKenzie. Ellie's orderly world has now shattered. Her parents are stressing out and Ellie just wants to protect her brother. She is determined to believe in his innocence.

When Mikey and Ellie meet there is an undeniable attraction. Mikey is determined to get back at the boy who has caused his sister so much pain. However, he had not anticipated meeting Ellie. What initially begins as a ploy for him to try and find out information from Ellie that could help his sister, turns into genuine feelings, perhaps even love. Ellie does not realise at first that Mikey is Karyn's sister. She is drawn to him but when she finds out by accident who he actually is, she is hurt at his betrayal but also sees an opportunity to try and help her brother. Although both Mikey and Ellie try to deceive one another, they soon find themselves questioning what actually did happen and their loyalties are soon divided. 

This was in many ways a bleak story. Rape is a hard topic to portray in a realistic and believable fashion and for the most part You Against Me succeeds. Karyn is labelled a 'slut' by some of the characters because on the night in question she wore a short skirt, was drinking quite heavily and seemed to be all over the boy whom she ended up accusing. Unfortunately there is the prevailing attitude that if you dress and act in such a manner you are therefore 'asking for it' and the book does not shy away from this kind of viewpoint. Victim-blaming is still very present in these situations and although this makes me uncomfortable, I guess I have to give props to the author for portraying this in a realistic manner no matter how much I wish it didn't happen.

The struggle both of the main characters have with what has happened and how this affects their developing relationship is also realistically tackled. Mikey's steadfast belief in his sister's account never really wavers although there is certainly some blame going on towards Karyn from him and his family. Ellie's position in some respects is even harder. She wants to believe that the older brother she has always looked up to is innocent but she cannot help having nagging doubts.

This was a very gripping novel that was difficult to read because of the heavy subject matter but at the same time I found I could not stop reading until I reached the resolution. The ending fell a little flat for me as it did not adequately tie together all the loose ends. If the ending had been a little more in-depth or clear it would have been a definite five star rating but as it stands a solid four stars.