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You Against Me

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If someone hurts your sister and you're any kind of man, you seek revenge, right? If your brother's accused of a terrible crime but says he didn't do it, you defend him, don't you? When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her, his world begins to fall apart. When Ellie's brother is charged with the offence, her world begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide. This is a brave and unflinching novel from the bestselling author of "Before I Die". It's a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it. But above all it's a book about love.

413 pages, Hardcover

First published December 2, 2010

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About the author

Jenny Downham

10 books1,026 followers
Jenny Downham (born 1964) is a British novelist and an ex-actor. In her first book, Before I Die, the fictional account of the last few months of a sixteen-year-old girl who has been dying of leukemia for 4 years. The book is told in the first person. The book was acclaimed and was short-listed for the 2007 Guardian Award and the 2008 Lancashire Children's Book of the Year, nominated for the 2008 Carnegie Medal and the 2008 Booktrust Teenage Prize, and won the 2008 Branford Boase Award.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,473 reviews
Profile Image for L A i N E Y (will be back).
394 reviews676 followers
March 11, 2017
This book was a piece of heaven for my little bruising shipping heart...

One of the most achingly beautiful moments for YA couples ever. But I kept reading and it happened again - a scene more memorable than the last. By the time I'm close to finish this was my thought "okay this is getting ridiculous". Tenderest of moments upon even more lovely scenes, both together and apart, I just...... it was hard to comprehend how much I felt for these two.

I made this sounds like a fluffy, romance-heavy book and it was while also wasn't. The romance wasn't strictly romantic type - it's a lot to do with family and friends and how much you'd do for them.

It was a uniquely brave book.

And I won't be able to get over this book hangover any time soon.

Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
May 3, 2018
3.5 stars.

You Against Me was one of my most anticipated books of 2011. So much so that I was 100% sure I would give it 5 stars. Jenny Downham's debut Before I Die left me a sobbing mess (I am in a minority here thought, most of my co-readers did not join the cryfest). I expected the same from her second novel. You Against Me was good, just not as good as it could have been.

Let me just say, the plot itself is fantastic. The two main characters in this love story - Mikey and Ellie - have a very complicated relationship. Mikey's 15-year old sister is a rape victim. Her alleged abuser is Ellie's older brother. Mikey is a protective brother and is determined to punish the rapist. Ellie loves her own brother and wants to believe in his innocent. The two teens first come together to get information out of each other, to help their families, but soon their loyalties and beliefs start shifting.

You Against Me portrays the issue of rape with care and sensitivity, in all its complexity. Downham shows that the families of both the victim and her assailant are affected by the crime as much as the people directly involved in it. She writes about the denial and blind belief of the rapist's family and the exhaustion and even some blaming in the family of the victim. She shows how easy it is to discredit a rape victim by labeling her a slut - a short skirt, some drinking and any kind of dating history is all it takes. How hard it is to prove that she didn't "ask for it" in a drunken stupor. And that a victim's ordeal doesn't end with a filing of a police report.

As much as I appreciated all this in the novel, I wish it were more intense, tighter. It needed not to be so quiet, so subdued, it needed more outrage, more drama. It needed to push more boundaries. It needed to shear off 50 or so pages in the middle. It needed to make me care about the romance and characters more.
Profile Image for Jo.
268 reviews946 followers
May 12, 2020
“It was strange how words meant something when they came out of your mouth. Inside your head they were safe and silent, but once they were outside, people grabbed hold of them.”

Initial Final Page Thoughts.
Wow, what beautiful ending. And book, actually. Extremely unique, fascinating and honest.

High Points.
Ellie. Mike. Trust. Doubt. Truth. Lies. Perception. Bracing rivers. Baked potatoes. Old cottages. Bunking classes. Cookery. The future. Team Karyn.

Low Points.

Even though I liked the romance between Mikey and Ellie, I’m not sure whether it would have progressed so quickly in reality. I think, with a subject matter like this one, there would have been a lot more anger in there and it would have taken longer for them to turn to each other and realised how they felt.
I kept getting muddled with how much time had gone past in this book, it could have been a little clearer.
But that’s only a little quibble- the rest was absolutely brilliant.

Oh Ellie. You had me conflicted throughout most of this book. One chapter I thought you were ok, the next I loved you, the next chapter I was screaming ‘Ew, if you’re going to come back fighting don’t liken yourself to Jean fricken Grey. Do you not remember how that ended?!', and then I hated her. Really hated her. And then I loved her again.
And I ended on loving her.
Ms Downham did a beautiful job with Ellie, a girl in an unimaginable and horrific situation.
But Ellie, my love, stop jumping in rivers. Yes, it sounds fun and edgy and cool but we live in Britain and you’ll catch your death.

Mikey, mind if I call you Mike? I don’t like the name Mikey, it makes you sound about five.
I was a bit worried about you first, partly because you were playing a dangerous game with Ellie and also you were carrying a spanner. Which is never good.
But then I warmed up to you as the book went on… and I mean really warmed up to you.
You’re a bit of a one, you make no apologies, you’re loyal to your family, you’re sweet with Ellie and your friends, you have dreams and you know how to cook.
I didn’t hinder that I was totally picturing you as a Tony Stonem. Boom.

Theme Tune.
This was a difficult song to choose because, as I’ve mentioned before, there were so many issues and emotions covered. But I’ve decided to focus on the, as Mikey said, the best thing that came out of this whole thing.

You Make it Easy by Air.

“He felt perfectly happy as he walked side by side with Ellie, their fingers occasionally brushing, electricity building between them. It was the first time in days, maybe the first time in all his life, that he didn’t want to change anything.”

This book wasn’t a love story… but there was definitely love in it.

Sadness Scale.
It would be really easy to dismiss this book as a modern Romeo & Juliet story (If it had believe me, this book would have been flung out of the window so hard) and about teenagers coming together in exceptional circumstances. But as much as I liked their relationship and it was sweet and tactfully done, I felt this story was about so much more than that.

It is horrific to think that these thoughts occur at all, never mind how often they actually do.
It’s a complex story about loss, fear, justice, allegiance, doubt and trust but Downham explores them all to great depth with unflinching honesty and respect without ever resorting to manipulating her readers.

Recommended For.
Anyone who wants a beautifully written book about a difficult subject matter. People who don’t mind books without definite answers. People who would be quite happy just to paddle in rivers because the water is freezing.
Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
June 17, 2020
i feel such pressure to write a really great review for this book, because it is so impressive on so many levels, but the post-turkey-day fatigue is strong in me. i will do what i can.

you probably already know what this book is about, because it is really quite popular. so just quickly. to get us all on the same page, i will just reiterate that it is a story bout a rape, from the perspective of the brother of the victim and the sister of the accused, who form a relationship in the busted pieces of all of it.

which is already, like - woah.

because when you are dealing with this situation, in literature, the impulse is of course to focus on the victim. it is more powerful that way, right? to showcase the pain and the humiliation and the fear and the aftermath and how one goes about picking up the pieces of their life in a situation like that.

not so.

because here, on the outskirts, the ripples are just as strong, and this book does such an amazing job of depicting how rape affects people on the periphery of the situation - people who were not even present at the time - in such profound ways.

mikey's impulse is to protect his sister, and to physically destroy the boy who did this to her. ellie's impulse is to stick loyally to her family, and believe her brother when he says he is innocent.

exactly zero of the characters in this book are sympathetic or likable, but the writing overpowers their broad impotent rage or their wishy-washiness or their latent sexism or their naiveté. you will get sucked into the story, despite wanting to give everyone a good smack.

it is a tricky book, filled with nuance. mikey's easy seduction of girls he feels nothing for starts to pall for him in the aftermath of his sister's rape, leaving him wide open to fall for ellie, despite his intentions of manipulating her into giving him access to her brother tommy, for his deserved ass-beating. he does sort of start to understand that his own behavior towards women has been distasteful, but he continues to focus on violence as a way of solving his problems, instead of really being there for his sister. he does the things that need to be done to hold his family together while his mother drowns in alcohol and absentee parenthood and his sister refuses to leave the house, but it is surface-only; mechanical. he forgets about the root of the problem, wrapped up in some antiquated code of vengeance, and neglects to support his sister emotionally, so focused on hatred as he is.

ellie is another crappy thing altogether. she is the wide-eyed, overpetted lamb of her surface-perfect wealthy family, idolizing her golden-boy older brother and knowing he could do no wrong. she is so credulous, it hurts. and she is supposed to be this great scholar, but her big idea is to GOOGLE "rape"?? come on, sister, show me those supposed smarts already.

tommy and ellie's father is one of the worst human beings i have ever read about, as a character. not because he is the manifestation of pure evil, it is more insidious than that. but he reminds me of my ex's father, and it is so appalling to read him. yes, he is protecting his young and that is very admirable, but phoar... the lengths to which he goes and his casual dismissal of this poor girl is really very horrifying. made me want to pull out my hair a little.

it is also a fantastic book in its treatment of the rape. because it is all he-said, she-said, and it gets difficult. because, again, these are orbital characters, not the main participants. and it isn't a thrown-up-against-the-wall attack, it is much much murkier. and so sad and desperate and emotional.

this is a very necessary book, unfortunately. and it does its job so well. it has its weak bits, obviously, but the message is such an important one, outside of any bittersweet young love story between two fragile and confused romeo-and-juliet teens.

this shit is not okay. and i am awfully glad this book is out there for all the young girls who maybe need a book like this.

best i can do.

oh, a p.s. for greg. you would like this book because it is all about your beloved british underclass. they eat so many crisps!

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,963 reviews294k followers
February 28, 2011

Well... finally, a much-anticipated book that actually delivered. After being so hyped up about 'Matched' and then being let down with it's mediocrity, I tried not to get too excited about this book and prepared myself for another monumental disappointment.

But no.

I'm always rather dubious when it comes to romance novels; if you find a good one then you can be reeled in and swallowed up, it can stay with you for a very long time... but so often this is not the case. The amount of times I've dared to enter into a romance story with high hopes and found nothing but cheesy, star-struck "I can't live without you"s are countless. They are often plagued with cliched characters and storylines and I found myself awaiting something similar from 'You Against Me'.

And I loved it. No, seriously, I really did. The chemistry sparked off the pages without being over-emotionally cheesy. There was no getting lost in their eyes, no "oh gosh, did our hands just accidently touch?"

I liked and genuinely cared about both characters. Plus, it was so much more than a love story, the dark backdrop of sexual abuse is told through different eyes, tackling the 'slut' issue that is a very real hindrance to prosecutions in rape cases. The fact that anyone can even ask the question: "If a girl is wearing revealing clothing, is she asking for it?" just shows how important this novel is.

Was it perfect? No. I had an issue with the ending, or lack of if you want to be precise. Perhaps the author was leaving it open for a possible sequel but nothing has been mentioned so far. There are very few cases where ambiguous endings work (The Handmaid's Tale is one) and this book required something more at the end. But I liked it so much that I would happily say yes to that sequel.

Profile Image for Lauren Kate.
Author 108 books25.5k followers
April 17, 2011
Stayed up all night to read this recently. Wonderful.
Profile Image for Aly (Fantasy4eva).
240 reviews120 followers
November 6, 2011
Most seem to love this book. Isn't it annoying when you're the odd one out? :/

Let's get on to my thoughts, shall we! ;)

When Ellie's brother, Tom, is accused of assaulting a girl, his family is pretty supportive and stand by him. The thing is, they're so busy supporting him that they don't even freaking ask him if he actually did it, I mean, talk about baffling! Meanwhile, Mikey' sister, Karyn, has locked herself in her room ever since they found out what happened to her. Both family's lives are turned completely upside down.

So when Ellie and Mikey happen to meet by chance, although originally, both have ulterior motives, both eventually find themselves falling for each other.

Ellie' family is well off in contrast to Mikey' who lives on the rough end of town. Whilst Ellie comes from a tight knit family, Mikey and his sister only have their mum. But even then, it's Mikey who's always been in charge. With his mum venturing out in the late hours of the night and staggering back drunk, the pressure quickly falls on his shoulders. And although I commend him for being responsible and taking care of his sister and mother, there's no doubt that he's just a complete jerk. First off, he simply see's women as meat and has no respect towards any female whatsoever. It Makes him hard to like or care for really. Not to mention he does some really stupid things, and although he improves a lot towards the end, it was a little too late by then.

Ellie, on the other hand, is being treated as a suspect. Apparently she was there when it happened, but she claims to have been asleep. Throughout the book you will find yourself grow weary towards her. You really don't know how much you can trust this girl. One piece of advice. Don't fall for her naive little charade. She's more sharp than she lets on. I didn't like her either. Conniving people piss me off.

The problem for me was that I couldn't bring myself to care or like even one character. And how could I? Every one of them were either conniving or unlikeable. To top it all off, the slang/accent the characters have going on really grated on me. I've heard it in the past, sure, but when you have to hear it for 300+ pages, it gets a bit too much.

Also, I didn't believe that Ellie and Mikey were in love at all. Sure they like each other, but love? Now that's pulling it a stretch.

I did like that the book constantly kept you on your toes. You're always questioning whose lying and telling the truth, and I'm glad that you don't find out until the very end. It helped really build up some great tension.

It ends as well as it could have. With lingering hope and an air of possibilities.

It was an ok read, but I'm not sure I can say that I liked it. ( I had high hopes from loving BEFORE I DIE). I'm sure many will enjoy it more than I did, but I don't think this one is for me.
Profile Image for Reynje.
272 reviews962 followers
January 5, 2012
3.5 stars

When I was at the beach as a kid, I used to regularly do this thing where I would swim out as far as I could, just to see how much distance I could cover. I’d swim until my arms got tired, then stop to catch my breath before turning around. I never stopped doing it, but I’d be lying if I said that every single time, I didn’t experience a second of sheer panic when realized I was just suspended there, well and truly out of my depth.

I feel a little like that trying to write this review. (Also, ocean swimming is mentioned in this book so I’m not being entirely off topic). I’m sitting here nervously hunched over my keyboard, because I can feel what I want to say, I’m just not entirely sure I’ll be able to articulate it. And You Against Me is a book that takes the reader into deep water, so to speak. I just want to be sure of my footing.

I’ve read other books that deal with sexual assault, where the story centres around the emotional and mental journey of a character who has been assaulted.

You Against Me is somewhat different in that it focuses on the family members of both the accuser and the accused, how it alters their lives and what happens when revenge and doubt collide.

I’ll start by saying that this is a very readable book, and I enjoyed Downham’s particular writing style. It’s pared back, almost stark, and suited to the somber, often bleak atmosphere of the setting and the story. Then there are occasional passages that are unexpectedly expressive and vivid, spots of beauty amid the almost oppressively grim tone. Downham certainly captures the respective worlds her characters live in with unflinching bluntness. It’s particularly effective in juxtaposing the two different socio-economic backgrounds of Mikey and Ellie. In this and other ways it’s a book of contrasts, pushing different sides into conflict and comparison.

Downham’s characterisation is also excellent. Mikey, Ellie and the supporting characters felt like real, flawed, somewhat broken people attempting to go about their lives however they knew. None of the characters are particularly “likeable”, but I’d argue that’s not really the point in a book like this. Downham seems to be simply demonstrating what people are capable of, good and bad. I do think that she shows courage in writing her characters this way, allowing her “protagonists”, Mikey and Ellie, to do unsympathetic things.

Then there are parts of this book that are outright uncomfortable, sections that I found extremely difficult to read. It’s a horrible truth that victim-blaming is still alive and well in society, and Downham doesn’t back down from showing this. Whether it’s the bald remarks about “slutty” clothing, drinking and girls “asking for it”, or the more subtle but intensely stomach-churning comments Mikey’s mother makes in which she implies that her daughter has brought trouble upon herself and the family by speaking up – none of it is easy to read.

I’m very much aware that these kind of things are still said, and that Downham is accurately presenting what sadly happens every day, but to be honest, I struggled with it. There is a fine line between being brutally realistic and propagating a harmful pattern of belief. While victim-blaming and consent is addressed, certain scenes still made me upset. Maybe this was the point - to drag this issue out in the light, to show that these judgments are not okay. Does it succeed? Yes? I think so? I don’t know.

Aside from this, You Against Me does a brilliant job of keeping the reader uncertain and unsettled. By forcing her characters in nightmarish circumstances and testing their allegiances to the full extent, I was never quite sure up until the last few pages where it was going to go.

The title is extremely appropriate for this story. Initially, it appears to reference the cross-purposes of Ellie and Mikey. However, as the story evolves, it becomes clear that this expression could be applied to all of the characters at various points, as they are all drawn into the depths of this complex and harrowing situation, particularly as regards family, the urge to protect, and the extent of denial.

You Against Me is a challenging and tough book. I have to admire the way Downham tackles the subject matter honestly and openly, and I hope it provokes more conversation and thought about these issues.
Profile Image for ivana18.
26 reviews18 followers
October 3, 2014
Thank you very much Law school because if it wasn't for you I wouldn't have had trouble sleeping and I wouldn't have read this book as fast as I did, it definitely deserves to be read in one breath.
This book was an all-nighter, and after I finished it (2:30 AM) I couldn't sleep for at least another hour thinking about it.

One of my first thoughts last night when I finished this book was: Romeo and Juliet meets Crime and Punishment.
This is a YA drama, and it's the best YA books I've read so far. It's real and angsty and funny and sweet and heartbreaking and heart-heeling, and it made me cry like a baby.

15 year old Karyn McKenzie likes 18 year old Tom Parker. One night they run into each other in a pub and Tom brings Karyn home with him. They drink alcohol and smoke pot. In the morning Karyn goes home, and 24 hours later she goes to the police and accuses Tom of rape.

But this story is not really about Karyn and Tom. This story is about Karyn's older brother, 18 year old Mikey McKenzie, and Tom's younger sister, 16 year old Ellie Parker, and the Hell they go trough while trying to deal with Karyn's accusation and Tom's claim that the rape didn't happen. One of them is lying, and in this review I'll try not to hint which one, and I urge other reviewers to do the same, or put spoiler warnings, because for 2/3 of the book we really do not know who's lying and who's telling the truth.

Mikey is trying very hard to keep his family together, his mom is an alcoholic and there's no dad to rely on. He looks out for his 2 younger sisters and his messed up mother. He brings food to the house, tries to take his baby sister Holly to school on time, and is trying to help Karyn deal with everything that's happened. He is extremely troubled by the fact that Karyn won't even go out of the flat, and that's she missing so much school that she probably won't graduate. He believes that Karyn's accusation is true. He's angry at Tom and wants justice and revenge.

Ellie was at the house that night when Tom brought Karyn and his friends back to party. When the police came for Tom it was like someone tore a piece of her heart. She loves her brother very much and believes him when he says that the rape didn't happen. She'll do anything to save him from being locked up.

When Mikey and Ellie meet, their worlds collide. They both love their siblings and are trying to protect them.. Ellie believes her brother's being truthful and Mikey believes Karyn....and somehow, in the midst of it all, they fall in love.

I've read some of the other readers reviews and was puzzled by them. It still amazes me that so many people think that the world is black and white, and that it is really easy to tell the difference from right and wrong.
Well sometimes there's no right and wrong, there's just wrong and wrong, and it is up to you to choose the lesser evil. Something that Ellie said explains it perfectly: She took her hands away from her face. ‘It isn’t going to be over, don’t you get it? Someone’s family’s going to be ruined – yours or mine, that’s the choice. We can’t run away. This is real life, Mikey!
From what I've read it seems that people don't understand Mikey's and Ellie's actions, don't understand why they did what they did in order to save/help their siblings....but I do understand because blood is thicker than water, and love for your family makes you do desperate things, even when you know that what you're doing is wrong.

What would you do? How far would you go to save your family?

This book brings out a lot of questions. There are no easy answers to these questions. I for one don't know what I would have done if I was in Mikey's or Ellie's place and I pray that I never have to find out the answers for myself.
Rape is a very difficult crime to prove in the court of law. It is a horrible crime that affects not just the victim but their family too, and in many cases it affects the family of the accused. And a false accusation is just as bad. Sadly, both the victim and the falsely accused are branded for life.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,461 reviews8,568 followers
January 30, 2012
3.5 stars.

I tried to explain the plot of this book to several of my friends at school, and while some times it went successfully, there were other times when it didn't. On the surface, You Against Me is about Mikey, whose fifteen-year-old sister, Karyn, has been raped. The young man charged with raping her, Tom, also also has a younger sister named Ellie. Mikey and Ellie meet each other and begin to form a bond, but their connection may bring devastating consequences.

When examining this book beyond its surface, its about many different things: family, loyalty, love, doing the right thing, etc. It doesn't focus on the victim of the rape or the rapist himself, rather, it shows the perforating effect of the act on those standing in the periphery. Packed with pathos, this book will make you feel the emotion and the tension as the conflict climbs higher and higher.

However, You Against Me had its faults. The story seemed like it was floundering and going nowhere in some sections, but in others I was wishing Downham had described the drama in more detail. The romance, while good, was questionable - both of your siblings are involved in a rape and you decide to go make out? It felt a tad rushed and unrealistic. Finally, none of the characters were likable. Not sure if that could be considered a bad thing, but at times I wanted to reach into my Kindle and let loose some serious slapping.

Overall, a unique book in terms of how the scenario of rape is handled, as it shows the process of the families coping as opposed to the victim and the accused themselves. I wouldn't recommend it to any random person I met on the street, but if the plot summary grabs your attention, I would recommend you give it a try.

*cross-posted on my blog, the quiet voice.
Profile Image for Alexa.
351 reviews278 followers
January 8, 2011
I had high expectations before I started this book. I can safely say my expectations were pretty much met. The book didn't blow my mind or leave me emotional. (Not to say the book didn't make me feel anything. There were times I was happy and angry and worried.) But for the most part, I had a calm feeling. The setting even felt calming. I liked that.

I thought the author did great with the characters and relationships. They felt realistic and believable. There were times when some of the characters would say or do something that pissed me off. I thought they were being unfair, selfish, or stupid. But then later on, those same characters would say something that made me completely understand why they said what they said or why they did what they did. I'm glad for that. I never like going through books hating characters.

As for the main characters, Mikey and Ellie, I really liked them. I thought their relationship was done well. My favorite line in the book was from Ellie's brother Tom, the one being accused of the crime. He said this: "You want this to be a love story?" Well, I know I wanted it to be, between Mikey and Ellie. And after reading it, I think it is and more. The book's summary states it perfectly: '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.'

Not everything is resolved by the end of the book. We don't exactly know what will happen to the characters, but it's not that hard to imagine. I don't believe the author left us hanging, which I'm grateful for. And like I mentioned before, the ending even left me with a calm feeling. So for me, it was a satisfying read, and I definitely recommend it.
Profile Image for Jillian -always aspiring-.
1,821 reviews198 followers
May 26, 2011
You Against Me by Jenny Downham (author of Before I Die) is one of those books where the book blurb reminds you a lot of a Lifetime movie. You have a boy and a girl, joined by the sordid details of a crime and accusation involving their siblings. The boy is planning revenge in some form while the girl, unaware of the boy's intentions or identity, slowly begins to fall for him. It almost sounds like Romeo and Juliet meets a Dateline crime special. How can this end well on either side?

Mikey is struggling to balance work and family as he copes with the aftermath of his sister Karyn's alleged rape. Though his dreams lie in living in London and learning to become a chef, he instead toils away to help his family because his single mother is an alcoholic who spends more time hung-over than with her three children. What were the fraying threads of his family life now threaten to rip apart entirely after what happens to Karyn; police officers and social workers become parts of the family's life, much to Mikey"s dismay. But even though the future is unclear, Mikey knows one thing: Thomas Parker caused all of this.

Thomas "Tom" Parker is Ellie Parker's older brother -- the one who was accused of raping Karyn. Though her family hides behind the gates leading to their home, Ellie too is dealing with a family on the brink of self-destructing. Because the allegations against Tom are of the "he said, she said" variety, Ellie feels a great pressure since she was home the night the alleged rape occurred, and she will likely be detrimental to her brother's defense in the upcoming trial. However much her parents assure her that helping her brother prove his innocence is the right thing, Ellie feels even more doubtful and uncertain the longer she processes the memories of that night and the truth of what really happened. . .

Mikey and Ellie meet under the guise of lies and a pursuit for revenge. Their initial relationship is based more of Mikey's attempt to glean his own personal justice upon Tom, but nothing works quite as planned once Mikey and Ellie begin to realize that they like each other. Whatever their differences or flaws, they are connected by the crime and its ripple effects through both of their families. How will they survive it? And will they be able to look at each other the same way after the fact?

You Against Me is definitely a very fascinating book, especially with how it delves into the psychology of how families cope with crimes (from aspects of both accuser and accused). . .but it is also very frustrating. No, this book is not a romance -- or, at least, not in the traditional sense. Instead, it's a portrait of realism, falsehood, truth, fear, doubt, family, and healing. The characters don't take easy paths -- and, even when decisions are made, the answers are not so clear-cut and simple. This is an ambiguous book showcasing that there are always two sides to every story and that, instead of black and white, our world is a very gray place of villains masquerading as heroes and heroes being portrayed as villains.

However much I loved this book for challenging my mind and my own judgments, I honestly don't think it's a book for everyone. It's the type of story that you mull over, that you ponder and contemplate, that makes you think, "Okay, what would I do?" Not every reader is comfortable with that kind of introspection, so that's why I hesitate to say,"YOU MUST READ IT." Still, You Against Me is very fascinating and thought-provoking, so I hope it will find the readers who will appreciate it the most -- and who come away better and stronger because of it.
Profile Image for ♥ Sarah.
539 reviews127 followers
January 7, 2013
Warning: Possible spoilers, but not really. Also, kind of a long rant and full of complaints – continue if you're contemplating on reading this. Otherwise, you might want to skip this review.


Initially, I was intrigued and instantly drawn to the premise, because rape was being explored through the eyes of the victim's brother and the perpetrator's sister. Further, issues of loyalty, revenge, forbidden- Romeo & Juliet type love, etc. were brought up. However, these themes were never fully fleshed out; but were rather, watered down by the cheesy and unbelievable "forbidden romance" with the enemy.

My initial enthusiasm quickly died down and turned bitter, as both Mikey and Ellie turned out to be completely unlikable characters. Objectively, I could see the intention behind the romance aspect, as well as the choices Ellie made toward the end, but it was executed poorly; and I wasn't convinced she handled it appropriately.

Additionally, Ellie & Mikey's relationship felt unbearable. I was cringing through the contrite, forced, cheesy dialogue. And Mikey's declaration of his "feelings" toward his supposed enemy? Unforgivable. Unrealistic. Unbelievable.

Also, I expected some angst: raw anger and the true heart of revenge from Mikey, yet he turned out to be weak and selfish, just like Ellie. I didn't really feel any brotherly/sister love from either of them either. They were just flat characters.

But it was interesting that Karyn wasn't depicted as the innocent, shy, bright, studious type that simply got taken advantage of. However, what pissed me off was how she was described: drinking, partying, boy-crazy (but who isn't at 15?), wearing that short skirt. . . WHOA. Was that supposed to make me question the validity of Karyn's statement/allegation? Because those "reasons" hardly justifies rape.

And although Karyn wasn't necessarily likable in the story, I would have rather read about her than her sorry ass brother and his childish endeavors.

Also, I never once believed Tom was innocent, so I couldn't help but despise Ellie more after her little confession. Without the confession, I could have sympathized with her and her means of "coping" by trashing Karyn, but that wasn't the case. Ellie knew the truth. Also, the way in which Ellie handled the truth also upset me, and I couldn't help but feel she was motivated by some petty romance with the enemy; and if guilt, sense of responsibility or truth were behind her actions – I didn't notice.

Lastly, I struggled with the British terminology/slang/lingo. Like, what the hell does a fag mean? I'm guessing either a cigarette or a blunt? There were just, a lot of other little references and words I didn't quite get, which added to my frustrations with this book.



1. I didn't once believe Karyn was lying.

2. I really disliked all the characters, except Jacko. He was OK, but he was in less than 1 percent of the story.

3. The romance was contrived, silly and most of all, unbelievable . I just didn't buy any of it. If my brother told me he was "in love" with the sister of the guy that raped me after only meeting her a total of 10 times, I would FREAK. It was just too absurd. Also, it would have been a lot of more interesting to read if Mikey's intent was to seek revenge on Tom by messing with his "innocent" sister (Ellie), rather than to just seek "info" from her. That was lame!

4. It might have been more interesting if Tom & Ellie were close friends with Mikey & Karyn before the alleged rape. If Mikey and Ellie already had a romantic relationship before the incident, then I would have been more understanding/ sympathetic to their relationship. Also, it would have been a hell of a lot more dramatic.

5. I guess the "results" of trial wasn't mentioned because the story was mainly about Mikey and Ellie. Still, I would've liked to know. That was important to me. At least give me that. I need some sort of justice... I didn't get any kind of closure at all. Disappointing.

6. I appreciated the "public" response and how the kids at school started taking sides and so forth. It was all ugly and unfair and unfortunate. As messy and ugly it all was though, it seemed realistic and accurate. However, there still wasn't enough meat in the story overall to keep me interested.


I was extremely disappointed; You against me was a total miss for me.
Profile Image for ~Tina~.
1,092 reviews159 followers
September 2, 2011
This issue alone would usually have me steer clear of a book like this. I'm a paranormal junkie and the occasional contempory romance YA reader, but when it comes to serious issues I tend to stay away...I guess I like reading escape more then reality, but once in awhile a book comes along and you read the reviews and my curiosity seems to get the better of me. You Against Me is one of those books and I'm so glad I took the chance on this one since I would have missed out on a really great read.

You Against Me is a story of pure complications. It's about a girl named Karyn who went to a party and is a victim of rape. Her brother Mikey, the has-to-be-responsible one in the family wants revenge on Tom, the one who did this to Karyn. But somewhere along the way Mikey falls for Tom's sister, Ellie. Someone who knows what actually happened...
That's a pretty messy situation huh?

Jenny Downham did an amazing job of tackling this kind of issue. It's true that a lot of the time rape is a very hard to prove and there is a lot of he said/she said with dangling doubts in the background. But there is more to this story. We get to see what's it like for the other people involved, the families and how it effects their lives and the choices they make. It's about loyalty and right and wrong no matter how much you hate it. But it's also a story about finding love where you least expect it.
I didn't think a romance would be something that would fit in a story like this. It's so unlikely that the brother of the victim and the sister of the assaulter would come together like they did, but you know, it worked. I really enjoyed Mikey and Ellie. They are both going through their own personal hell, and yet, they don't want the other going through this pain, but by all rights, should want exactly that. They understand one another and no matter how problematic their relationship or involvement may seem, it makes more sense for them to be together then apart. It's not something easily conveyed but Downham did a very convincing job by combining an intricate issue with heartfelt hope.

Overall, I was very impress with this book. We don't get all the answers in the end, but in a way I'm glad. I don't really know how I'd feel one way or the other regarding Tom but I think everything will be alright for the rest of the characters and that's good enough for me.

Thought provoking, intriguing and tugs at the heart.
Highly recommended!

(Are provided by Edelweiss)
Profile Image for Kerri.
980 reviews351 followers
February 10, 2023
***Just editing an old and very brief review. I loved this book, but didn't really write reviews at the time.***

I found this really beautiful and compulsively readable - it was impossible to consider getting some sleep because I wanted to know what happens next!
Profile Image for Ariana.
938 reviews1,303 followers
October 14, 2019
I wanted to read this book from the moment I heard about it.. But, while waiting for it to be published, I read Before I Die first (and I didn't really liked it) so I didn't know if to read "You Against Me" after all, no matter how many good reviews I've seen.

But.. yesterday I gave it a try and now I can't stop wondering why in the world didn't I read it earlier?
It was that good.

The title is perfect - and it doesn't define only the relation between Ellie and Mickey, but also the relation between all the characters because at some point there is always someone against the other one -they always make choices and they are left to deal with the consequences.
I loved the fact that this was not a fairytale and every action they made was getting them to some place new, every time they tried to fix something, there was another thing that went wrong.. I felt like watching a movie, I found myself reading in a 'fast-forward mode' (or so it felt) because there were so many things happening. There were even so moments when I found myself asking Aah, tell me again how did they get to this point? and I kept reading with my mouth wide open.

Before reading it, I thought that the story would be about who was saying the truth and who was lying - and maybe in a way this is true.
But I was surprised to see that this story was more about choices, and family, and loyalty, and love, and trust.. about finding the soft line between what's right and what's wrong - because what was right for someone it was always wrong for the other.

Mickey is trying to take care of his family ( his sister Karyn going through such a rough time, his little sister so innocent of all this, his mother that couldn't cope with all that happened and lost herself into drinking). Even though he is older than Karyn he makes a childish decision - to kick Tom's ass, as if this would make up for what his sister was going through.
But meeting Tom's little sister and starting to care for her it's something that he never thought would happen, and so they get thrown into such a difficult situation - they are so different and have such a different purpose: she is rich, he is not.. but more than that she is a witness in the trial, and what she says can change everything.

Ellie in a way is trying to just the same thing - take care of her brother - but more than that she wants to get through the trial and be free again.
Her family has as many problems as Mickey's, even though money are not on that list.
The father is as cold as ice, her mother has no voice up until the end, and Ellie's brother is in big, big trouble and his life depends on what his little sister knows.
But does anyone think about what Ellie wants? Does anyone care about her needs? She is just a child and she feels completely alone until she meets Mickey.

Now I must say that there some things that I really liked about this book:

#1 - the love story - there was such a smooth transition between the moment they met, the moment they realized how much they liked each other and the moment they knew they were in love. It was some kind of modern "Romeo & Juliet" story, and I wanted so badly for them to figure out a way to be together, to make things right again and just enjoy being together.

#2 - the fact that being from "different teams" in this trial and being involved with each other didn't get unnoticed. And the consequences were somehow realistic.

#3 - the relation between the members of each family. I loved to see how Mickey's family found a way to change some things, and it was hard not to understand the situation in Ellie's family even at the end. I keep thinking about them all and I should congratulate the author for handling so well this situation because it was damn difficult. I know, I make no sense but it's hard to keep this review spoiler free.

#4 - the characters - they were all described very well. I wouldn't want to be in their shoes, but I could understand them (or most of them). It was great to see how one's decision could change other's life, and they changed through the story, and they picked sides, and they did things and had to deal with consequences... and at the end they all understood. (and I won't say more)

Even if there is not a clear ending, it was perfect for the story.
I wanted to know what happened next (I still want), I wanted some more answers, but it also gave me hope.. and this is enough.

All in one, this is a great book - amazing - and full of emotions ... it's one of those books that make you think what would you do?

This review can also be found at ReadingAfterMidnight.com

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Profile Image for Cara.
279 reviews703 followers
November 27, 2011
Rating: 3.5
I should have written a review for this one awhile back but to be honest I didn't know what to say exactly. It is no doubt a powerful novel and I wanted to make sure I would say the right things... well time has gone by and I still don't know what to say so here goes nothing.

Now for those of you who don't know the premise it's a twisted one. Mikey has a sister named Karyn and Ellie has a brother named Tom. Karyn has accused Tom of raping her. Well Mikey can't stand for that, so to get to Tom Mikey tries to befriend Ellie. Can we see where this is going? Yes, Mikey falls for Ellie and vice versa. Ouch, see isn't that just a sticky situation? Sorry, I probably confused you, but I promise in the book it's not that hard to follow.

The backdrop of this story is in England and I have to say I was having trouble keeping up with some of the dialogue. It's easy enough it's just I am so picky about knowing the exact meaning of everything so this Yank was just a tad bit frustrated with herself. It does add to the certain atmosphere though, and was cool to see. Now on to the characters, and oh boy the characters. They are the main reason why I kept flip flopping on my star rating. I would have to say I hated each and every one of them at some point in the book, which I would have to assume to be accurate for a situation like this. They are all, to put it bluntly, screwed up. Ellie struggles to be loyal to her brother. She keeps remembering the good in him, but there is also the bad side too. The author did a superb job of showing how Ellie waged this internal war and I am willing to admit I wouldn't want to be in her place. Mikey on the other hand deals with the situation badly. He wants to help Karyn but in all the wrong ways. Out of the two characters he was my favorite. He tries so hard to do right, but can't seem to get it and I can applaud someone like that.

Mikey and Ellie take turns showing their perspectives, but it's done in third person so the format was definitely unique. Both the main characters may live in the same country but it might as well feel like different worlds. Mikey lives in a rundown apartment with a mom who is a drunk, and he feels the responsibility of caring for his two younger sisters. He isn't perfect in the least though, he notices how much Karyn actually helped him shoulder the burden. Then there is Ellie who comes from a privileged family. For goodness sakes her parents gave her brother a welcoming party for being released from jail! So you see, two worlds apart but the two worlds collide when Mikey and Ellie are together.

I know this is going to sound heartless of me, but the biggest downfall of the novel I would say is the romance. Now please before you say your boos hear me out. I'm trying to be realistic here, and I believe for a healthy relationship to evolve you need more time and trust. And I can't see this being an ideal situation for that. It could happen but I doubt in the pace that it did. Others will love the romance but it didn't do it for me.

The subject of rape is never an easy topic to dig into, but I feel the author did it justice. She made the story expand by making the main characters people who are close to the victim but not the victim themselves. It shows how far reaching the effects are. The author isn't skimpy on details and I must admit it was excruciating to read. There is so much meat in this story and I could go on even more, but suffice to say that the story is layered and feels complex, and most importantly is able to expose some important truths.
Profile Image for ♥Rachel♥.
1,855 reviews846 followers
January 13, 2012
This story is about two families affected by the accusation of rape. It doesn't focus on the accused and accuser, but rather on the sister and brother of the two parties.

This story is told from two perspectives: Mikey McKenzie, the older brother of the accuser, Karyn, and Ellie Parker the younger sister of the accused, Tom. The story opens up with Mikey trying to figure out how to make Tom pay for what he's done to his sister. Mikey feels he needs to do something because since the rape, Karyn refuses to set foot out of their flat or go to school. She barely changes clothes or eats. Tom has just been released on bail, and Mikey figures this would be an ideal opportunity to make a move. Tom has no idea what Mikey looks like so he heads over to the Parker's home to scout it out. When he knocks on the door, Ellie answers, she's the same age as Karyn and doesn't recognize Mikey, mistakes him for one of Tom's college friends and invites him to Tom's release party. Mikey does go to the party but he never gets a chance alone with Tom. He instead ends up talking to Ellie most of the night and from that he hatches a plan to cozy up to her and pump her for information. She was, after all in the house when the attack occurred, and he doesn't believe for one minute, the statement she gave the police: that she saw nothing. This plan sort of backfires when Tom starts to fall for Ellie and Ellie starts to fall for him. Will their relationship survive when the truth comes out?

I loved Mikey and Ellie' story. There were some swoon-worthy scenes. It's ironic that out of all the people in the world they end up falling for each other. I think because of the shared experience, even though on opposite sides, they have a bond. They both can understand what the other is going through. All the way around, this would be a difficult situation. You don't even know who's telling the truth until about two thirds through the book, but even then there is damage to both families no matter what. Rape, as a crime is such a difficult one to prosecute and without definitive proof there would always be a shadow of doubt cast on both sides. Even with this tough subject, I highly recommend this story. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Profile Image for Jasprit.
527 reviews748 followers
January 20, 2011
I was immediately drawn to this book once I'd read the blurb, and I'm glad I picked it up, as it was an amazing read. As the book deals with such a tricky theme you would expect the book to be quite depressing and morbid, but its not, it was so full of ambiguity, suspicion and it is very moving, that I just literally couldn't put the book down I was that absorbed. It was a well written book as I enjoyed how it showed contradiciting stories from both families. This book has definately made it to my top reads of the year and I'm looking forward to reading more books by Jenny Downham.
Profile Image for Steffy.
406 reviews21 followers
September 22, 2011
Honestly I’m not sure how I feel about that book. I can’t say I despised it it would be pushing it and I can’t say I liked it…it would be too nice. When I finished my initial reaction was “Ehhhhh” which for the people who know me means ‘not terrible but could have been so much better’ in Steph’s language.
No Seriously, I don’t know if I went there with too high of an expectation, I read the summary a few months ago and was just dying to read it since then. I expected something like Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles (If you didn’t read it yet, just do…you’re still here? You are not listening (sigh). Very well lets continue) but it was not. First of all the language is very crude, not that I mind but it’s definitely not for younger teens…I wouldn’t advise it to anyone under the age of 15.
The setting was great the storyline was…okay even if there were some inconsistencies in it. What bothered me the most was the characters. Usually when I read a book I really get into it, the emotions are there but here it didn’t do it for me. I couldn’t feel bad for Karyn the ‘victim’ who really was only good at whining, I couldn’t hate the ‘criminal’ or anything. There was no real back story. Why is Mickey’s mom an alcoholic? Why is Tom snapping like that alkl the time? Why is Ellie’s father so hard on her and not on Tom? How does it make her feel? I didn’t like any of the characters much and just went along with the story for the sake of it. I found the characters plain and the absence of characterization made it boring. Ellie and Mickey relationship is also…so generic. Why did she like him? Why did she just go along with it? It’s just so…
I won’t lie; the book also has its moments. There are a couple of emotional scenes but I’m not sure it’s worth buying. But once again I might have set my expectation so high that I could only feel being let down.
Profile Image for Dija.
413 reviews230 followers
July 5, 2012
Reading You Against Me was like listening to a recording on high speed. All the characters' reactions seemed extreme and drastic and I couldn't understand where they were coming from at all. Downham seemed to be trying way too hard to make her characters seem relatable but they ended up seeming stiff and orchestrated instead.

Maybe my life's too sheltered, but I simply couldn't see this story happening in RL. It wasn't brutal enough to be believable and it wasn't normal enough to be realistic either. I could tell that Downham's intentions were to write a deep and touching story, but I was mostly bored throughout.

Nearly all of the characters' problems were blown way out of proportion and had one simple solution - communication. Everyone in this novel lived in his or her own little bubble, away from reality, and didn't really bother explaining their feelings, choosing to have a pity party and lashing out bizarrely instead.

Overall, this was a meaningless book and I doubt I'll be reading Downham's other works. Put simply, her writing style doesn't appeal to me and I have trouble relating to her characters.

1.5/5 stars

For more reviews, visit my blog.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Scott.
Author 105 books3,460 followers
August 22, 2011
Jenny Downham is a genius and I wish I had one-tenth of her skill. Or could just live in her head for a day to see what it's like to be so brilliant. One of the best dual-narrator books I've read in ages, and page 409 (of the UK version--I couldn't wait for it to be published here, although I think it just came out in the US) make me cry every time I read it because it's raw and hopeful in a way that breaks my heart and makes me want to believe at the same time.

Profile Image for Sanja ✵.
231 reviews
August 15, 2021
This book handles a really heavy topic, and I always applaud authors who dare venture into those territories. That’s why I rated this book two stars instead of one.

Because I didn’t like a single thing aside from that and couldn’t get myself to care about any of the characters. They all act with ulterior motives and manipulate or lies.

Mikey’s whole plan was to use Ellie, so he could get close to Tom. So he could beat him up. Because Mikey is one of these terrific people that believes violence solves everything. He then expects people to thank him for that.
First she’d told Gillian about the fight, now she was mocking him in front of his best mate. He was astonished at how ungrateful she was.
When he’s not using people or beating them up, he trades girls like one would change underwear. He never has a relationship longer than a week before he grows tired of them. Then we’re supposed to find the relationship between Mikey and Ellie romantic or something because he just mistreats her in different ways.

Ellie wasn’t much better, she wanted to use Mikey right back. We also find out that pretty much everything she says is just lies.

When it came to the actual case between Tom and Karyn, I didn’t want it to go well for either of them. I couldn’t sympathize with them. Tom guilt trips and manipulates his family to support him. Karyn just sits in her room and lays blame on people left and right, whether they had anything to do with it. I get that what happened is traumatic, but you can at least be a decent human being to the people trying to help.

And I don’t really know how the police system works in the book. But Ellie wants to go to the police station and give a new statement. She’s not under arrest, but they treat her like a suspect and interrogate her. When her mother protest, they police snapped that if she didn’t keep quiet they would throw her out of the room. I’m pretty sure they can’t keep questioning an underage person without someone present. They came across as extremely unprofessional. They also keep calling everyone “mum”. Which is super weird. It’s not even “get your mum to call us”. It’s more “when do you think mum will show up?”. Like do they think everyone is their parent or something?

They book was also super boring at times.
She sat down. Mum carried a dish of lamb chops across to the table and Tom stabbed two of them up with a fork. Mum went back to the oven and turned peas and carrots into bowls. Tom passed the chops to Dad. Mum put the vegetables on the table and Tom helped himself. Mum went back to the oven and pulled out a tray of roast potatoes, using a tea towel as a glove.
I think I fell asleep at least twice in that part. It’s also stiff as hell.

I disliked every single character and didn’t want happy ending for any of them. But I didn’t really get an ending at all, because everything is left hanging. Given that I was disappointed with the entire story, I guess it’s rather fitting that I was disappointed by the ending too.
Profile Image for Eunice.
255 reviews527 followers
February 5, 2012
3.5 stars


Actually, I really don't know what to say. *sigh* This was a compelling and powerful read but after I finished the book, for some unknown reason I don't know what to feel. Actually, I still haven't figured out my overall and final say about this book but I'll give you my initial thoughts while I was reading it.

You Against Me was a novel that discussed a delicate and tricky issue. I may have steered clear of this book after seeing the blurb since it sounds a little dramatic and complicated. But as I read it, it wasn't really at all like that and I did like the plot and characters. The book tells the story of Mikey, brother of the accuser of being raped and Ellie sister of the accused. And as you may have guessed, yes, they fell in love with each other.

The story was told in multiple POVs, both of Ellie and Mikey but in a third person. I liked both characters but between the two I find it easier to read and connect with Mickey. I understand that he was always really trying to help his sister and her family but made it in a lot of wrong ways. And I was glad that by the end of the book he completely realized it. I loved it that between him and Ellie he was the one thinking more positive that their relationship has a chance and that he was the one fighting more. Ellie, on the other hand seems to be a little unpredictable. Though it was pretty understandable since she's torn between the choices of protecting her brother or telling the truth. In the end though, she was able to pick the right choice and stick to it. The romance between the two was moving and I adored it though I wished it have been discussed more deeper.

I really admire Jenny Downham for being able to discuss the issues of rape well, especially how she confer the effects of it for the families of both sides. As I was reading this I find myself a little torn between the two families. I saw the struggles of each family to protect their loved ones. I actually felt pity over Ellie's family since I saw how desperate they were trying to keep their family together and for some reasons I admired Ellie's relationship with his brother. I know Tom's guilty but I saw that he was having regrets over it and despite Ellie's choice of telling the truth he cared for her more. I was actually really touched by it.

I had a lot of understanding about the issue after reading this. However there were really a lot of loose ends, I even thought maybe there is a sequel. Maybe that's why I still can't think of my final thought of this book.

Alright, this is really a messy review! Maybe I'll update this soon once I finally gathered my final thoughts.

This review is also posted at Book Overdose
Profile Image for Anastasia.
35 reviews20 followers
January 19, 2013
Plot: Mikey's sister says a boy raped her. Ellie's brother says he didn't do it. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide

Sounds interesting enough right? WRONG!
The blurb is far more interesting than the book itself. The book concentrated on all the useless things we didn't want to know about. The plot was very weak, it was just plain boring.
"She wrote her name on the top of the sheet and underlined it. The ink was blue"
It was useless sentences like this that made the book so boring.

Mikey's sister claims she got raped. Naturally any brother would be angry. Mikey's only 18, I totally understand but when you're mother isn't capable of standing on her own two feet let alone look after the family you're forced to step up, which means you don't waste your time thinking up ridiculous plots to avenge your sister who in the end didn't appreciate it anyway and called you stupid and selfish. (Talk about ungrateful)

Ellie. Oh god where to begin? I hated her from the moment she was first introduced. If your brother is accused of rape, shouldn't you be less ignorant and more cautious about life? According to Ellie no. After a stupid fight in school she unbuttons her school shirt , lifts her skirt higher and texts a boy she barely -no correction- doesn't know to meet her in a cemetery! Oh and better yet, later on she strips in front of him and goes swimming in a lake. Let's not forget after she finds out who this mystery boy is she invites him to her house -knowing nobody would be home- gives him dope, makes him drink wine, takes him to her bedroom and takes her top off, all in the hopes of getting information from him! Is she mad?! She didn't know the kind of guy Mikey was! Not only did she invite him to her house when she knew nobody would be home she gave him alcohol and dope! I mean for godsakes, this kind of stupidity leaves you questioning her mental stability!

Writing was boring, useless and unnecessary parts in the majority of the book and just plain bad!
Profile Image for Beth.
300 reviews566 followers
January 16, 2011
If I'm honest, this book is probably more of a 3.5/5 for me, but it definitely doesn't deserve to be dropped to a 3.

Downham's writing is superb. I hated Before I Die, but You Against Me is a lot more basic, stripped down, interesting and realistic. There's no florid language to draw an artificial reaction out of you; this is two characters and a situation. This is gritty, heartfelt and honest. The characters are lovingly drawn and flawed, but relatable. The ending is a great balance between hopeful and not so picture perfect. I was initially disappointed that we didn't get to see the trial, but ultimately it was the right decision. Also, I was one of the people who believed that Downham couldn't pull the premise off without it seeming forced and contrived. It didn't. It was plausible and believable.

But there was one huge problem with the book that I just couldn't get past. It's something that seems much more rife in English novels that any other: the concept that the middle classes are evil. Very much Screw The Rules, I Have Money. While the lower classes are hardworking and truthful - flawed, yes, but still One Of Us.

This problem was present in its highest order in YAM. I never once believed that Tom was innocent. This is coming from someone who is ridiculously objective about rape. I am "innocent until proven guilty" the whole way. But Ellie's father was one hair away from being a mustache-twirling villain. Karyn is a plot device, not a character; we see her maybe three times in total, and she's never asked to go through the details of her attack as Tom is. She's just there, and then she's proven right. Big deal. I didn't really care about her. That element of it was very one-sided and disappointing to me. But, still, a good book.
Profile Image for Sarah Marie.
1,843 reviews226 followers
November 16, 2015
You Against Me by Jenny Downham

4.5 stars

What would you do if your sister accused somebody of rape? What would you do if your brother was the being accused? Mikey McKenzie’s younger sister, Karyn, accuses Tom Parker of raping her. Mikey vows to protect Karyn and starts a plan to make Tom feel the pain his sister feels. When his friend Jacko says he wants in they decide to go through with it. Mikey ends up Tom Parker’s front porch in hopes of acting out on the plan, but he meets Ellie, Tom’s little sister. Ellie tells Mikey of a party for Tom’s bail and he and Jacko attend hoping to get information. What Mikey doesn’t expect is that his plan will turn into something completely different when he meets Ellie. Ellie is tired of constant revising and worrying if her brother really did what he was accused of. Mikey becomes someone she can truly be herself around and she loves that, but what will happen when she find out who Mikey really is? Even bigger what will Ellie do if Tom really did do what he was accused of? I wasn’t expecting this to be told in alternating POVs, but I think it was done beautifully. Once again I’m in love with a book by Downham. After reading Before I Die and being blown away I’ve hoped that Downham would release another book. I saw that she had and this book has been on TBR list for a whole year. I wasn’t expecting to be on such an emotional journey. I didn’t cry like I did with Before I Die, but I had so many emotions. I think that’s what makes Downham such a great writer. She elicits emotion in her writing and stories. I’ll admit the synopsis on the jacket hadn’t drawn in me and I was wary of it, but that wariness went out the window with just a couple of chapters.

Whimsical Writing Scale: 4.75

The main female character is Ellie. I really liked Ellie. She was relatable and strong, but she questions things and worries like a person. I always felt like Ellie was real and not just another character. She had a story and it needed to be told. I did hate how easily she could be swayed by her father. It angered me because she it’s obvious that she loves her father, but her father isn’t always looking out for her. Ellie did eventually break away but I understood her sorrow and it’ll never be the same in her household.

Kick-Butt Heroine Scale: 4.75

The main male character is Mikey. Mikey is also very real. I loved how he was very human and wanted to protect his family. He was more of a father to his sisters and it shows how he loves his family. I don’t like how he thinks so little of himself and there was a point towards the end of the novel where this becomes a big part of his thoughts. But he is only human and humans doubt their selves all the time. I loved how he was just as caring towards Ellie as he was his sisters. I also enjoyed his dream of being a chief and I hope it’s a dream that he reaches.

Swoon Worthy Scale: 4.5

The Villain- This is the part of my review that I don’t want to talk about it… it’s just a big part of the novel, but this sums up my feelings.

Villain Scale: 4.5

There were quite a few supporting characters in this novel. Jacko, Karyn, Holly, Mikey’s mother, Tom, Ellie’s parents, and Dex are the ones that are more prominent. I have mixed feelings about Jacko. I liked him at first, but I started to feel like he did more harm to Mikey than good sometimes. I still like him though even though he can be a real jerk, but he’s real and he’ll always be there for Mikey even when Mikey’s doesn’t want him to be. I like Karyn since she shows how a teenage girl deals with rape, but I can’t say I like her as a person. I don’t think she deserved what happened to her and I wish she wouldn’t have gone to the party in the first place or that her friend wouldn’t have left her there alone. Compared to her little sister Holly she is isn’t as radiant in life, which I understand because of what, but even towards the end when she starts going outside again I feel like she’ll never be truly happy again. Holly is probably my favorite of the minor characters. I feel like she was the one thing to brighten up Mikey’s life before he met Ellie. Mikey and Ellie’s parents are both very dysfunctional and need to get their lives together before they can do healing. Mikey’s mom seems to be doing that though. Tom should fall in a whole. I hate what he did to Karyn and her family and his family. I don’t like him and he’s a villain but not THE villain. Ellie’s dad should fall in a whole with Tom. I get that he wants to protect his son from going to jail, but he has a daughter and he needs to think about her too. Dex was Mikey’s mentor and always there for him and was like a father to him.

Character Scale: 4.75

All of these characters are real. They have substance and a place in the story. I did have a problem getting used to the heavy British slang though. I haven’t read a book set in London or its surrounding areas in a long time. It became easier to understand their slang after a while, but it took time. I also don’t like how it seems like Downham doesn’t use periods after addressing a superior figure. I remember that she didn’t do that in her previous book, but every time I would see Mr I wanted to scream and write periods in the place of where it should be. I couldn’t do that since it’s a library book and I don’t like writing in books. I like how both Ellie and Mikey wanted to get information out of each other at one point and it backfired. It was probably one of my favorite scenes in the novel. Downham didn’t disappoint and I hope she writes more books because she is definitely one of my favorite writers as of this book.

Plotastic Scale: 4.5

Cover Thoughts: I actually like the cover. Call me crazy but I think it’s beautiful. It fits this book for some reason.
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489 reviews1,637 followers
June 24, 2017
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You Against Me is a intriguing, brilliantly written novel by the author of Before I Die. The cover makes it look like a love story, which it is not. Well, not just a love story. (The love story is good though. I need to stop saying ‘love story’ now. Okay.) It’s a story about relationships, not just between lovers, but between family members and friends too. It’s about loyalty, the truth, bravery, and how far we would go to protect the people we love.

I bought this when it just came out in paperback, and I didn’t read it until now, because I didn’t remember Jenny Downham’s writing style very clearly from reading Before I Die so many years ago. I just wasn’t very excited about reading it, but I’m glad I eventually picked it up. I kept wanting to find out what really happened at that party, and which one—Karyn, the ‘victim’ or Tom, the ‘rapist’—was lying about it. And even though I thought I guessed which one was telling the truth, I was so wrong.

The writing was flawless. There were no moments that I wished I could skim through because it was too detailed or complicated. She writes what she needed to write, and didn’t over-explain things.

The title is perfect for this story. It isn’t only about the Mikey and Ellie’s relationships, but also that they’re on different teams. I thought the ending was good for this book. I don’t usually like open endings because I find it hard to imagine what happens after, but in this case, it was fitting.

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