You Against Me
by Jenny Downham
Nikki’s Rating: 8 out of 10
Summary: When Mikey’s sister, Karyn, claims that she was sexually assaulted, his world is turned upside down. Karyn points the finger at Tom and Mikey is determined to take revenge. But then he meets Ellie, Tom’s sister and can’t stop thinking about her. Their love and loyalty for their family is tested as they find themselves falling for each other.
8 Outstanding Things about Jenny Downham’s You Against Me
(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)
1. The Subject of Sexual Consent
Many books touch on sex. But most of the time, the context is for a sex scene. While You Against Me does have sex scenes and the main part of the story is the romance between Mikey and Ellie. One of the other areas the book touches upon is sexual consent. Especially in relation to being drunk and being able to give consent. I also appreciated that while the topic of rape and sexual consent can be rather triggering, Downham did such an amazing job of letting the reader know what happened to Karyn without traumatizing them with too many details.
2. Set in England
I enjoy reading books not set in America. One I love finding out different slang words that other English speaking countries use. I usually think their insults and slang sound better but it could be that Jane Austen is one of my most favorite authors ever. And therefore I love everything British! I will also say that I was also saddened that the culture around sexual assault seems very similar to what we have in the states. I was not expecting that.
3. The Trauma of Sexual Assault
Karyn who is sexually assaulted ends up having severe anxiety after the incident, anxiety so bad that she cannot leave her home. While this may seem extreme, this is a valid and real outcome of trauma. Everyone deals with trauma and grief different but I appreciated that Downham choose to portray a girl who was on her way to developing agoraphobia because of her trauma.
4. Reporting Sexual Assault
I have to really appreciate Downham for touching on the hardships of reporting sexual assault. Many people don’t realize that reporting sexual assault is traumatic in itself. And no, I’m not talking about having to retell a thousand different people what happened, that’s bad enough. I’m talking about the tragedy of not being believed, being called a slut, hoe, whore by people who don’t even know you. Have every sexual act you have ever done scrutinized in a court, where the jury is being swayed to believe that you are a slut and asked for it.
5. The Whole Family is Affected by a Crime
While I’ve come across books that showed the victim’s point of view and the perpetrator’s point of view, I found it interesting to have the book’s point of views to be from the siblings of the victim and perpetrator. It gave a new perspective of how the crime affected them as well.
6. Wanting to do the Right Thing BUT…
Not wanting to get someone you love/like/care about to get in trouble. I wonder how many people had to suffer through this struggle. I could not imagine how painful it would be to come forward and condemn someone you love.
7. Finding out a Loved One did Something Terrible.
Another shitty situation. I appreciated that Downham allowed Tom to remain human, didn’t portray him as a monster. He did a monstrous thing but that doesn’t make him a monster. Because of this, the characters that loved and cared about him had to come to terms that he did something horrible while still maintaining their love. Another very painful experience.
8. Called out Victim Blaming!
Downham, serious kudos to you for including this. So many victims are blamed. “Why did you get that drunk?” “You should have known not to hang out with a bunch of guys” “Well, did you see the clothes she was wearing?” “She was totally asking for it, we all knew she liked him!” Just no. A person under the influence of drugs/alcohol cannot give consent. A person passing out during a makeout session is not permission to fuck them.