Friday, January 13, 2012

You Against Me, by Jenny Downham

After Mikey's sister gets raped, he's angry and wants to do something about it. He and his friend Jacko decide to find the guy who did it and mess him up. Along the way, Mikey meets Ellie (the alleged rapist's sister). At first, it seems like the perfect opportunity -- get into Ellie's good graces to figure out a good time to get her brother -- but things get complicated when Mikey finds himself becoming attracted to Ellie for real. The relationship that develops is (naturally) pretty complicated and takes turns that surprise both of them. Eventually, it leads to some bold decisions that will change them and both of their families.

While predictable and at times suffering a lack of credibility, the story snags you quickly. Mikey and Ellie are well-developed and engaging, their feelings complex, and the dilemma they face is compelling. The story eschews an easy solution (and, in fact, any conclusion at all) in favor of laying out the problem for the reader to digest. It is clear that with so much at stake (and everyone from the parents to the younger siblings bearing agendas of their own) that no one will really come out of this happy.

I was lukewarm to Downham's first novel, Before I Die, but this is a good story with a lot of heart in it. Downham is a formidable writer.

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