ISBN-13: 9780385613507
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Published: December 2010
416 pgs
Source: Personal Library

Before I start off with the review, I have to thank Kristy for recommending this book to me. Kristy is not a fellow bookblogger, but a staff (who is also a friend to me) working at a bookstore which I used to patronise frequently until my office relocated. Anyway, I was on leave from work the other day to collect some books from her when she shoved this book, You Against Me by Jenny Downham to me. "I think you might love this," that's what she said. I took the book from her, thinking it is a contemporary YA romance based on the cover. However, there isn't a blurb behind the cover except one short sentence printed on it: "You want this to be a love story?" Of course my curiosity was piqued.

Seeing my perplexed look, Kristy plucked the book out of my hands and began to tear off the plastic sheets that wrapped the book neatly and securely. "There, now you can find out how you like it." I flipped the cover and I read the blurb on the bookjacket. And I liked what I read, so I bought it together with those books she had reserved for me. I read this book the following day, and couldn't put it down. Are you still with me? I'm sorry I rambled, but I just want to share with you how this book came to me, and that I owed Kristy for recommending such a great book to me.

The story begins with Mikey McKenzie's family crumbling down when his younger sister, Karyn, being sexually assaulted by a guy named Tom Parker; a guy whom most of her school mates knew she had had a crush on him. The thing is, they were drunk with their friends at a party at his house and no one knew what happened except his younger sister, Ellie Parker. Though Tom is being charged, there are also some speculations surrounding Karyn though it is minimal. Just when you already felt the tension there, the momentum shifted when Mikey and Ellie met each other. Mikey wanted revenge for his sister, so he thought Ellie would be a good target to start with. However, the more Mikey knows Ellie, his feelings start to change.

Ellie, on the other hand, is a lonely girl who doesn't has many friends in school. To make things worse, her life has became a scrutiny to others in school now that her brother is charged for sexual assault. However, her world changes after she befriended with Mikey and she felt he is the only person who could understand her. For the first time in her life, she felt loved until she began to realise who he is.

You Against Me is a terrific contemporary YA novel that touches on family, loyalty, choice and of course, love. However this book is not suitable for younger readers for its topic, plus it has themes on alcohol and drugs. What I loved about this story is aside from the story is told, the characterisations are great and though Mikey and Ellie have their flaws and all, the way they are portrayed are real and honest. I felt for them, and I sympathised with them for the situation they were in. And then of course, I didn't know who I was angry with most. Mikey for his revenge plan, Ellie for her lies (I wouldn't want to say more to avoid spoilers), or Tom being the one who has started it all? I could only describe my reading experience is equivalent to riding a roller coaster ride, because I just don't know where it would take me and how far/steep the fall would go.

I have to applaud author, Jenny Downham, for writing such a sensitive, difficult yet a thought-provoking topic and though this book has the potential of a mystery, instead she has focused on the characterisations and the emotional ground which I think is a much more difficult feat and a far more rewarding reading experience. I totally enjoyed reading this book despite the heavy subject, and though I know no matter what happened to the ending, there is always this part where no one's life is ever be the same again and also that sometimes life doesn't have all the answers; still for my own selfish reason I gave this book a 4.75-stars instead of a 5-stars rating because I really want to know what happened to Tom Parker, even though I know this story is more of Mikey and Ellie. And needless to say, I will definitely be checking out Jenny Downham's books in the near future.
9 Responses
  1. Darlene Says:

    Great review Melody. I really want to read this one. It sounds so good and you've rated it so high as well.

  2. The Bookworm Says:

    Sounds wonderful. How nice of your friend to recommend it.
    Great review.

  3. Violet Says:

    wow, this really sounds like an awesome book and what a great way to discover a new book

  4. Willa Says:

    Wow this sounds fantastic. Thank you so much for reviewing it!

  5. Ceri Says:

    I've read quite a bit about this book and your review has made me want to read it even more. Thank you for reviewing it, Mel. I'm so glad you enjoyed it too.

  6. Iliana Says:

    What an excellent review Melody! Ever since you mentioned this one I knew it'd have to go on my list.

    And, really enjoyed hearing how you picked up the book in the first place. I have a question, you said the book was wrapped? Are all books wrapped or just this one because your friend was holding it for you?

  7. Melody Says:

    Hi my friends! Thanks for your comments! :) As you can tell, I loved this book!

    Iliana - Yes, most of the books are wrapped in big chain bookstores here, especially hard covers and a few new releases. I suppose they wouldn't want their books to be handled badly but one could go to the service counter and ask to unwrap the book should the reader is interested to find out more of the book. :)

  8. Swapna Says:

    I read Before I Die by this author and found it powerful, and this one sounds even moreso. I'll definitely be adding this to the TBR list.

  9. Netherland Says:

    I picked up this book after a huge dystopian YA binge. The concept itself of two people with nothing but conflict between them falling in love is unique among pretty much both adult and YA novels. I amazed how well-rounded the characters are (especially Mikey) and their realistic portrayals. The author tackles a number of serious issues from rape to family loyalty to depression. The story considers many perspectives of rape--the victim, the rapist and the relatives of both--something I've never seen any other book do. Best of all is the writing that pays attention to little details. Of course, I absolutely fell for the love story, which was not cheesy or corny or one of those love-at-first-sight things.
    I have just one thing to complain about--fat shaming and the virgin complex. There was this one scene where the female protagonist talks negatively about a fat girl she doesn't know and overeating. The scene felt wrong. The other is, there were slight undertones that if girls dress slutty and readily offer sex then they got raped or that they weren't as good as girls who dress up conservatively and are shy virgins. It doesn't matter what you dress like, whether you party or not, it's not your fault for getting raped. Sure, women should not blindly trust people, but they should be able to have sex and not be stigmatized for it. Mikey keeps comparing virginal Ellie to his ex Sienna, with whom he'd had sex with. He keeps saying Sienna was easy so she wasn't as good as Ellie who is shy and takes her time with boys. I mean, what's wrong with a woman or a girl wanting sex? Why is it worse than a boy wanting it?

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