You Against Me

You Against Me - Jenny Downham "You Against Me" is my first read from Jenny Downham, and I was drawn into the novel's premise from the get go (not to mention that it has a wonderful cover to match). Ellie's older brother Tom is accused of raping Mikey's sister Karyn, and yet Ellie and Mikey themselves are drawn into a relationship with what's sure to have painful consequences in the midst of the rift going between the two families. The novel commences a little sluggish, developing Mikey and Ellie's situations with careful precision until the point when their identities are realized and things start hitting the ground running. The story starts out with the two discovering their alliances and working against each other, but it steadily transforms into a relationship that they're both drawn within despite what surrounds them. But even with the heavy nature this novel is said to have, the tone is notably subdued in places, like a calm before a storm. It certainly hits in its higher tension points, but probably not as hard in collective consideration as one would probably expect. That's not to say that it isn't potent and realistic - I felt pulled into this novel in many ways.The rift between the two families is confronted very well and pulls no punches in the context shown, showing the stakes for both families involved in the matter. Ellie has to contend with her loyalty to Tom and her family in her testimony in court, while Mikey has to contend with his mother's substance abuse and his sister's debilitating fears in the aftermath. The school environmental taunts and gossip are unerringly realistic. The story itself didn't make me cry, but it did tug at my heartstrings and pulled me into the center of the conflict as the truth surrounding the events came to pass. I felt for both the central characters, even as the events in the matter came to light, among other things. Downham has an evocative style of writing with respect to her dialogue and exchanges, and her use of British slang is authentic and creates the atmosphere and character voices very well. What would've made this a five-star read for me would've been a little more evocative tension that had better transitioning, and perhaps a little more vetting of the romance between Mikey and Ellie. Even with those considerations, "You Against Me" is a strong novel that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.Overall score: 3.5/5