You Against Me by Jenny Downham
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. (Goodreads)
Mikey wants to get revenge on Tom, the boy he believes raped his sister, Karen. With Tom out on bail and awaiting trial, Mikey decides to crash Tom’s welcome home party in the hopes of gathering info on him to later use against him or, at the very least, to assist him in his desire to smash Tom’s stinking smug face to bits
Ellie is Tom’s little sister. She loves her brother and although she’s uncomfortable because of the whole situation, she wants the trial, the accusations—everything—to be over so the family can go on with life. She meets Mikey at the party and while she doesn’t completely believe his story about knowing Tom from college, she has no idea that he’s anything more than a party crasher. She has no clue that Mikey is related to Karen and wants vengeance.
What neither expects is how drawn they’ll be to one another. Little by little, the facades slip away and the truth comes out. And as much as they know they should part, they can’t seem to do it. They have to hide it from their families, they have to keep their loyalties to their siblings separate from what they feel when they’re together and they have to give in to the grim reality that while only one family can prevail in the trial, they’ve all lost something.
This book really grabbed me. I was so touched by both main characters. First, there was Mikey who had this crazy, unflinching need to protect his younger sister, even though the worst had already happened. Karen is emotionally crippled by the rape, unwilling to leave the house or to speak to friends. She barely leaves her room. And being that the family has no father and their mom is a terrible drunk loser, Mikey has to pick up the slack and be the grown up in the home. He has to get their little sis up and to school (though he doesn’t always get it done) and he has to find Tom Parker and beat him to a pulp.
Ellie should have A Simpler Life, especially when compared to Mikey’s—simpler, that is, if her older brother hadn’t been accused of raping Karen. Now her family lives and breathes the court case. Ellie can barely show her face in school because of the taunts from Karen’s friends. She knows she has to put on a brave face and support her brother. And deep down, despite everything, she loves him. She remembers what a good brother he’s been to her and that pushes her forward. She’s led both by a sense of duty and by a deep commitment to the boy she’s grown up with.
The descriptions of these characters, of their lives and their pain is simple and understated. While I felt pulled in by them, the story, heavy as it could have been, never felt depressing. I was totally captivated by Mikey, this sort of player turned tough guy (for his sister’s sake) and how his plans crumbled under the weight of this connection he had to Ellie. And Ellie, who was bright and brave from the get go, turned out to be far more bold and fierce about her love in the very end. Their story, which seemed doomed from the start, had me eager to turn the pages, to see more of this relationship that begins with both of them walking in uncertainty and blossoms into one of beauty and strength. Something about this—and I can’t quite put my finger on what it was—felt very reminiscent of Melina Marchetta to me. It wasn’t quite as poetic, but it was raw and very well-done.
Crush Intensity: 4.5/5 Loved it.This is my first Jenny Downham book and I’m pretty much convinced that I’ll love anything she writes.
The last few weeks, it was as if someone had taken his life to pieces and let him see the way it worked.
There was a sweet shyness about her that he really liked. It was as if his heart got rubbed clean looking at her, like it was possible to start again.
And okay, one more:
Why did she love it so much when he said her name out loud? Like no one else had ever done it?
Trouble by Coldplay
A huge, ginormous thank you to my buddy Sandie at Teen Lit Rocks for loaning me her copy of You Against Me. I’m so happy she encouraged me to read this one! Hugs to you, Sandie!!!