Great young adult fiction is the reason at the age of 27, I continue to read the genre. Jenny Downham has a clear understanding of writing great teen fiction that’s both, exciting and nail-biting. In her recent novel, “You Against Me” she introduces the reader to two people who are both recovering from the same horrible crime. Mikey’s sister claims she was sexually assaulted by Ellie’s older brother. The story begins during the aftermath of this alleged crime and we meet siblings from each camp (if you will) that are experiencing the ripple effect in every aspect of their lives. It’s very much a he said/she said case that leaves both Mikey and Ellie fighting in a battle that neither of them signed up for in the first place.
Having never seen the man who hurt his little sister, Mikey is out for blood and he lies his way into a family party to get a glance at Tom (and rough him up if the opportunity arises). What he doesn’t expect is to meet a young girl who simply takes his breath away. The only problem is that this beautiful girl is Ellie, the sister of the alleged monster. Mikey decides to exchange numbers with her, tricking his mind into thinking it’s just for “research purposes”, when in reality he knows it’s for selfish purposes. After some time, Ellie finds out who Mikey’s related to, but by this time, it’s too late. Both Mikey and Ellie are smitten with one another and are now forced into a predicament they don’t even know how to unravel.
In life we’re forced to deal with what’s right and wrong all the time, but both these young teens are dealing with much higher stakes that can influence their whole families. Throughout the novel, we watch them both struggle with others, with each other and most importantly with themselves.
The element that I enjoyed most about Jenny Downham’s writing is her ability to create characters and families that are neutral. I simply mean that when I’m reading a novel, it sometimes is quite evident who the author wants us to dislike or root for from the first page. This wasn’t the case in “You Against Me“, you aren’t sure if you should be Team Mikey or Team Ellie. This is a rare feat if you ask me and it’s what made the novel so well-rounded and enjoyable!
If you’re on the hunt for some great teen literature, then I highly recommend this book OR Jenny Downham’s other fabulous novel “Before I Die“.