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You Against Me

You Against Me

4.1 61
by Jenny Downham

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If someone hurts your sister and you're any kind of man, you seek revenge.
If your brother's accused of a terrible crime but says he didn't do it, you defend him.

When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her, his world begins to fall apart. When Ellie's brother is charged with the offense, her world begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two


If someone hurts your sister and you're any kind of man, you seek revenge.
If your brother's accused of a terrible crime but says he didn't do it, you defend him.

When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her, his world begins to fall apart. When Ellie's brother is charged with the offense, her world begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide.

This is a brave and unflinching novel from the bestselling author of Before I Die. It's a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it. But above all, it's a book about love.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Cynthia Levinson
This quiet, compelling, and complex novel raises—and, appropriately for young adult readers, leaves unresolved—questions about love, loyalty, responsibility, and revenge. Hyper-responsible Mikey McKenzie, a working-class teenager in small-town, coastal England, struggles to keep his fatherless family together. While Mum drinks, he works in a pub and tries to fend off social workers who are trying to protect them, especially seven-year-old Holly. When his fifteen-year-old sister Karyn claims that a wealthy boy named Tom Parker has raped her, he seeks revenge. Mikey's plan, however, unravels when he meets and falls in love with Tom's sister, Ellie. While this plot could devolve into a simplistic, confrontational story line, Downham maintains ambiguity through Ellie's uncertain loyalty to her own family, who ignores her while demanding that she stand up for her brother, even after she witnesses him attacking a classmate. When Mikey's friend Jacko accuses him of abandoning his promise to avenge his sister's rape, Mikey defensively accuses Jacko of being jealous. Relationships at all levels are threatened, even those between Tom and his solicitor, when Ellie finally changes her testimony, no longer trying to protect anyone but striving to tell the truth. Parents and siblings become aware of the facts, to the extent they are discernible, in a harrowing court scene, in which Ellie, even more than Tom, is accused of lying. Readers will be thoroughly involved in the young people's dilemmas and relationships; their feelings and their understandings will be deepened. Reviewer: Cynthia Levinson
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Mikey's life is a juggling act: Mum spends her days and nights with cheap sherry, seven-year-old sister Holly needs help getting to school each day, and Mikey is working at a menial job that offers the hope of a tantalizing career. He faces further complications when his 15-year-old sister, Karyn, completely withdraws, suffering the devastating aftermath of a rape by Tom Parker. Ellie Parker has always been a quiet little nerd until she witnesses her brother's brutal sexual assault of her classmate. The pressure from her family to protect Tom at all costs has forced her into the position of fabricating a statement to the police about what she knows. For both Mikey and Ellie, the balancing act of their personal lives becomes more precarious when they meet. They are drawn to each other but are torn between family solidarity, an inability to trust any member of the enemy's family, and the feelings of their hearts. Downham brilliantly captures the struggle of these two star-crossed lovers as they navigate the stormy waters of family loyalty, social workers and legal systems, job and school. With touching honesty, she brings her characters to life in this poignant story of love and choice. Mesmerizing.—Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
Emily Bazelon
Downham's strength here is in allowing for plenty of moral ambiguity…Most daringly, especially in contrast to the often simplistic portrayal of situations like these, Downham also shows Mikey and Ellie acting on their own dark impulses.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
After Mikey's 15-year-old younger sister Karyn accuses college student Tom Parker of raping her, Mikey plans to avenge her. But when he goes to the Parkers' sprawling house, heavy spanner in hand, he meets Tom's younger sister, Ellie, and an attraction sparks between them. Downham's (Before I Die) sophomore novel is set in coastal England, and while there's a fair amount of detail about the English legal and school systems, as well as regional vernacular, the book's powerful themes are universal. As Mikey and Ellie's relationship deepens, and both feel forced to choose "sides," they struggle with their loyalty to their families, their feelings for one another, and broader issues of class, gender, and power. Well-drawn characters allow readers to sympathize with nearly everyone; Ellie, "the primary witness," is in a particularly difficult spot as she begins to waver about testifying for her brother ("I keep going over and over that night in my head and more stuff comes back to me, more things fit into place," she says). With no tidy solutions, it's an unflinching portrayal of love under pressure. Ages 14–up. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, July 18, 2011:
"Well-drawn characters allow readers to sympathize with nearly everyone...With no tidy solutions, it's an unflinching portrayal of love under pressure."

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2011:
"A tender, complex character study...Crisp, revealing dialogue, measured pacing and candid, unaffected prose round out this illuminating novel in which any reader can find someone to root for or relate to. Unforgettable."

New York Times Book Review, August 21, 2011:
"As the story builds to its tumultuous conclusion, Mikey and Ellie have to make the inevitable choice between new love and old allegiances...The hard question at the heart of this book — what would you do? — doesn’t have a single answer. For her young readers, Downham frames it remarkably well.”

Starred Review, School Library Journal, November 1, 2011:
"Downham brilliantly captures the struggle of these two star-crossed lovers as they navigate the stormy waters of family loyalty, social workers and legal systems, job and school. With touching honesty, she brings her characters to life in this poignant story of love and choice. Mesmerizing."

VOYA - Stacey Hayman
In the suburbs of England, fifteen-year-old Karyn was invited to Tom Parker's house after a night out. Now Karyn is saying that Tom raped her, and Mikey, Karyn's older brother, is determined to make Tom pay. When Mikey arrives on the posh side of town at the Parker's, he is surprised by the gated house, the party being planned, and most of all, his immediate connection with Ellie. Ellie is struggling to come to terms with the accusations leveled at her big brother and is grateful when she is distracted by an unknown boy at Tom's party. He seems sincerely interested in her, and she is intrigued by him. The pair realize they have something special, a way of making the other feel important and valued, that neither has had before. But knowing the reason they have met, how can they be together without someone getting hurt? The author provides glimpses into the emotional struggle of the rape victim, her family, the accused, and his family, but more than anything, this is the story of Mikey and Ellie. They are working through their individual issues and coping with their siblings' traumas while attempting to understand their intense connection. The small, well-developed core of characters has a sense of truth and helps create a sturdy backdrop for all the emotion. Almost impossible to put down once begun, the book's only misstep could be Karyn's night-to-day transformation after Ellie reveals a secret she has been keeping. Teens will desperately root for the young couple's happy future, and the author is kind enough to provide hints that a happy ending just might come true. Reviewer: Stacey Hayman
Kirkus Reviews

A tender, complex character study from the author of Before I Die (2007).

Mikey is a boy from the housing projects, working as a dishwasher in a pub to try and keep his fatherless family together. Ellie is a daughter from a privileged family whose biggest worry is passing her final exams. When Mikey's sister Karyn claims she was raped by Ellie's brother Tom at a party, Mikey cruelly plans to use Ellie to get close to Tom in order to exact revenge. Instead, the impossible happens: Mikey and Ellie fall in love. Now each feels that to swear allegiance to the other will tear their families apart. And when Ellie decides to change her statement about what she witnessed that fateful night, each family must come to terms with the inevitable consequences. In Dowham's capable hands, what could be the sordid topic of a daytime talk show instead becomes a graceful catalyst that tempers and transforms Ellie and Mikey, who only want to do what's right but aren't sure how. The secondary characters are equally vivid, especially Mikey's overwhelmed alcoholic Mum and Ellie's tormenting and tormented brother Tom. Crisp, revealing dialogue, measured pacing and candid, unaffected prose round out this illuminating novel in which any reader can find someone to root for or relate to.

Unforgettable. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
HL630L (what's this?)
File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Mikey couldn’t believe his life. Here was the milk on the counter in front of him. Here was Ajay, hand out expectantly. And here was Mikey, scrabbling for coins among the old receipts and bits of tissue in his jacket pocket. A woman in the queue behind him shuffled her feet. Behind her, a bloke coughed impatiently.

Anger stirred Mikey’s gut. ‘Sorry,’ he mumbled. ‘I’ll have to leave it.’

Ajay shook his head. ‘Take the milk and pay me tomorrow, it’s all right. And here, take some chocolate for your sisters.’

‘No. You’re OK.’

‘Don’t be daft, take it.’ Ajay put a couple of Kit Kats in the carrier bag with the milk. ‘And have a good day, yeah?’

Mikey doubted it. He hadn’t had one of those for weeks. Still, he managed a quick nod of thanks, grabbed the bag and legged it.

Outside, the rain was still going, a fine mist falling into light from the fluorescent strip above the door. He breathed in deep, trying to smell the sea, but the air smelled of fridges – something to do with the fans blowing warm from the shop behind him. He yanked up his hood and crossed the road back to the estate.

When he got back to the flat, Holly was sitting on the carpet in front of the TV, eating Cookie Crisps from the packet. Karyn had stopped crying and was kneeling behind her, quietly brushing her sister’s hair.

Mikey looked her up and down. ‘You feeling better?’

‘A bit.’

‘So, you want to tell me what happened?’

Karyn shrugged. ‘I tried to go out. I got as far as the front door.’

‘Well, that’s something.’

She rolled her eyes. ‘Crack open the champagne.’

‘It’s a start.’

‘No, Mikey, it’s the end. Holly needed milk for cereal and I couldn’t even manage that.’
‘Well, I’ve got some now, so you want a cup of tea?’

He went to the kitchen and filled the kettle. He opened the curtains, then the window. The rain was slowing down and it smelled fresh out there now. He could hear a child crying. A woman shouting. A door slammed three times. Bang. Bang. Bang.

Holly came in and dumped the cereal box on the counter. Mikey waggled the collar of her pyjama top. ‘Why aren’t you dressed for school?’

‘Because I’m not going.’

‘Yeah, you are.’

She collapsed backwards against the fridge, her head flung up towards the ceiling. ‘I can’t go to school, it’s the bail hearing!’

He frowned at her. How the hell did she know about that? ‘Listen, Holly, if you promise to go and get dressed, I’ll give you a Kit Kat.’

‘Is it two or four sticks?’


He rummaged in the carrier bag, pulled out one of the bars and dangled it at her. ‘And can you wake Mum up?’

Holly looked up, surprised. ‘Really?’

‘Yeah.’ If this wasn’t an emergency, he didn’t know what was.

Holly shook her head as if the idea was crazy, grabbed the Kit Kat and ran away up the stairs.

Mum thought the police would help Karyn, that was the trouble. After taking Karyn to the station and reporting what had happened, Mum had stepped back, probably telling herself she’d done her bit. But the police were crap. They’d asked Karyn loads of personal questions, even though she was upset. Then the cop who brought her home frowned at the mess, like she was judging the whole family. Mum thought that was normal, but Mikey had bitten his tongue in frustration, tasted blood in his mouth, the rust and the thickness of it.

Later, when the cop went, Mikey got the address out of Karyn and told Jacko to bring the car. Jacko brought the lads with him too, but when they got to the bastard’s house they were too late – Tom Parker had been arrested hours ago and forensics were already scouring the place.

For nearly two weeks Mikey had tried to swallow the anger. But how did he stop his stomach tilting every time Karyn cried? How did he watch Holly stroking Karyn’s arm, squeezing her shoulder, giving little wet taps to her face, like she was a radio that needed tuning or a TV that had gone wrong?

Mum’s solution was to hide herself away. But an eight-year-old comforting a fifteen-year-old meant the world was upside down. And something had to be done about it.
He made the tea and took it through, put it on the table in front of Karyn. She’d made a nest for herself on the sofa. She kept doing that – covering herself with cushions, blankets, jumpers.

Mikey went over and sat on the edge. ‘How you feeling now?’

With the light behind her she looked so sad.

‘He’s probably out already,’ she said. ‘Just walking about having a nice time.’

‘He won’t be allowed anywhere near you. He won’t be allowed to text you or talk to you or anything. He’ll probably be tagged, so he can’t go out after dark.’

She nodded, but she didn’t look sure. ‘There’s this girl at school,’ she said. ‘Last term she had seven boyfriends and everyone said she was a slag.’

This again. ‘You’re not a slag, Karyn.’

‘And there’s a boy in my tutor group and he had ten girlfriends. You know what they call him?’

Mikey shook his head.

‘A player.’

‘Well, they’re wrong.’

‘So what’s the word for someone like him?’

‘I don’t know.’

She sighed, lay back on the sofa and stared at the ceiling. ‘I watched this programme on TV,’ she said. ‘What happened to me happens to loads of girls. Loads and loads.’
Mikey looked at his nails. They were all ragged. Did he bite them? When did he start doing that?

‘Most girls don’t report it, because hardly any boys get done for it. Something like six in a hundred. That’s not very many, is it?’

Mikey shook his head again, bit his lip.

‘When I opened the door just now, there were some kids down in the courtyard and they all looked at me. If I go back to school, everyone will stare at me too.’ She lowered her eyes and he felt the shame wash off her in waves. ‘They’ll look at me as if I deserved it. Tom Parker invited me to his house and I went, so how can anything be his fault?’ She pushed a handful of hair from her face. ‘That doesn’t even make any sense.’

He wanted her to stop talking. He felt a rising panic that if she didn’t stop right now, she was going to go on and on for ever. Maybe she’d even talk about the night it happened. He couldn’t bear to listen to that again.

‘I’m going to get him for you,’ he said. It came out loud and sounded very certain.

‘You are?’


It was strange how words meant something when they came out of your mouth. Inside your head they were safe and silent, but once they were outside, people grabbed hold of them.

She sat up. ‘What are you going to do?’

‘I’m going to go to his house and smash his head in.’

Karyn pressed the flat of her hand against her forehead as if the thought of it gave her a headache. ‘You’ll never get away with it.’

But Mikey could tell by the sudden glow in her eyes that she wanted him to do this for her. He hadn’t done it and he should have done it. And if he did it, then she could stop hurting.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

JENNY DOWNHAM was an actress for many years before concentrating on her writing full-time. She lives in London with her two sons.

From the Hardcover edition.

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You Against Me 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 60 reviews.
FeatheredQuillBookReviews More than 1 year ago
In this story, a girl by the name of Karyn (fifteen-years-old) says she was lured to Tom Parker's home and was "taken advantage of against her will." Tom Parker goes to court, and Karyn doesn't want to leave her house - simply because of the fact that society is what it is and somehow Tom is the stud and she is the harpy. But this book doesn't revolve around these two characters. The center of this tale belongs to Mikey and Ellie. Mikey is the brother of Karyn. This is a young man who takes care of his two sisters and his mother, working constantly to provide protection for his all-female family. Mikey is a good boy but extremely tired of his life, and the whole mess with Karyn has angered him beyond belief. His younger sister, Holley, is someone he wants to watch over so she's not involved in this trouble. Karyn is housebound and barely eats anymore, while his mother drinks and disappears a great deal. All he wants is to head to Tom Parker's house and make him pay. From keying Tom's fancy canary-yellow car to dreaming of beating him to death, Mikey has no idea the next steps to take. Tom Parker is a jerk. But his sister, Ellie, loves him. She is the girl who was in the house when this 'horrific moment' took place, and she is the only witness who can truly say how guilty or how innocent her brother may be. Her father is a die-hard, tough lawyer who knows he will get his son out of this mess. While her mother is basically a society woman who simply shrugs her shoulders when her friends ask about the incident, smiles, and throws a party. In fact, she throws a rather large one when Tom is released on bail. She even has caterers bring the right food so everyone can have a ball. What happens? Mikey and Ellie find themselves falling for each other in the middle of this whole mess, and romance and loyalty to one's own family meet head-to-head. The struggles, tension, and almost 'serene beauty' of watching two innocent people try to find a way to be together while staying true to their loved ones is traumatic, sad, and extraordinary. Mikey and Ellie are the center of the violent tornado as they are pitted against each other to try and deal with the harsh topic of sexual assault. This amazing writer has done it again by reaching into the YA world as deeply as she possibly can to focus on issues that are "too difficult" to even think about, not to mention see play out in the real world. Quill says: No reader will forget this story!
MarieRyan More than 1 year ago
It took me 4 hours to read this book!!! and I would re-read it :) usually the thought of reading a story I've already read isn't too appealing to me, but this book is amazing enough to be read multiple times!!
damarisc123 More than 1 year ago
You Against Me has to be one of the most touching stories I've read in a long time. It involves two families, both being torn apart by an irresponsible decision made by two immature teenagers, and two individuals who get ripped apart inside by love and doing what's right for their families. Mikey's sister says that a boy name Tom raped her. When all this comes out in the open, their lives completely take a turn for the worse. Karyn refuses to leave the house, their mother is slowly drowning herself in pain and guilt, and Mikey is killing his brain trying to figure out how to make things better for them all. He's angry and wants justice. Ellie's brother Tom says he is innocent. Ellie feels it's her job to protect her brother and believe in him. Her family is suffering because of Karyn's accusations. All she wants is for life to go back to the way it was before Karyn. It's killing her to watch her brother worrying all the time and always on edge. What they both need is a way to clear their heads. For something to distract them from everything that is going on. To feel alive and pretend for one second that their lives are completely different. They find this by being with each other knowing that any minute this can all blow over their heads. They begin sneaking around with each other and giving each comfort that they couldn't find anywhere else. Of course there are trust issues between the two, but they never once doubt how they feel for each other. Neither one of them expected to fall in love. The guilt of betraying their families was big on their heart. I was seriously at the edge of my seat with hundreds of butterflies in my stomach whenever they got together in the book. I was waiting for them to get caught, or for something crazy to happen. I felt so bad for them and their families, but I was rooting for them. They just needed to be together. Jenny Downham touches a very scary and intense subject that I believe can help victims who have or know someone who has gone through something like this. Not so much the romance part of it, but the issue of rape. Mikey and Ellie's world was so believable, that I felt like I was going through it all along with them. I don't know what I would do if I was torn between the truth and a lie. When the truth finally comes out, things just get even more extreme for Mikey and Ellie and they find themselves even more lost and confused than before. This story was just beautiful in every way. The outcome was heartbreaking, but a relief at the same time. I loved it! You Against Me is definitely for a much more mature audience. 5 out of 5 Stars!
Joceyxs More than 1 year ago
This book was just hard for me to put down. I couldn't stop reading this book. When I first read the first chapter I couldn't put the book down I wanted to continue to read what would happen next. In this book Karyn doesn't want to leave her home because she was "taken advantage"  by Tom Parker. She is afraid of what people/ society will think of her.
lovebooksMC More than 1 year ago
It's an amazing story, one that shows growth in the characters and one that invokes emotion because of the topic being discussed. Throughout the book you will experience anger, frustration, sadness, and hope. It's a story worth reading, it's a story that tells both sides and in telling both sides, by the end of the book you are able to experience all characters and go through changes with the ones who change.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book soooo much! But i wish it wold have given a lil more at the end? What happens 2 Tom? Do Mickey and Ellie stay together??????:)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This type of book isn't one I would usually read but if you're like me sometimes you read books from the library too fast and the books you have on hold are not available yet you have to pick something else from the shelf. Now I was not disappointed with the story, actually it was extremely interesting and seemed so believable. Rape is a serious issue and the way the writer delves into the characters' lives leaves you a little stunned. Not the most fast paced action packed book by far however the slower motions of the book are forgiven with the appeal of the intricate lives of these teens and their families.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I dontlike this book it sucks
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a beautiful book. With such amazing characters, they all felt real. Innocent or guilty, I felt for all of them. Highly recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great powerful plot, many girls can relate to the situation. Whether its through themselves or someone they know. Bad ending, you never find out what the verdict was on the boy charged with the assault!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The name of this book is “You Against Me”. The author of the book would be Jenny Downham. Jenny Downham is a bestselling author; who has won the Brandford Boase Award in the UK. She is a trained as an actor, and before writing she worked in alternative theater. Today Jenny Downham resides in London.   Mikey McKenzie try’s to be the man of the house living with his mom and two younger sisters. He does whatever he can to try to protect them, but when his fifteen year old sister Karyn gets hurt by an older boy; Mikey takes things into his own hands. While trying to get revenge, he falls in love with the enemy’s sister Eleanor Parker while tearing two families’ apart. The point of the book is, the truth is always going to come out, and your feelings for somebody are always going to get away and miss things up.  Jenny D. the author was trying to say when writing this book, stick by those who are going to tell the truth and that are going to be there for you. So many people tell lies thinking it is going to help them, but in reality it just hurts them because the truth just eats them you up inside.  Coming from a reader who reads many romantic books this is a good book to read and like. This book gave a lot of emotions and always had more exciting “nail biting” events coming up. The book went in order of events that happened; more than two people in the book gave opinions, and it shown a bond of two people that couldn’t be broken. When things in your family between a brother and sister get hard always know there is someone always there looking out for you. Someone you could recommend this book to would be teenage girls around 16 to 18 year olds that like the feelings of wanting to know what is going to happen next, and romantic setting. The only downfall about this book at the end it leaves you with a cliffhanger. Over all this book was very enjoyable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, I feel in love with the two main characters and somehow Jenny Downham keeps you on both sides, like youre not just rooting for one family, but both. Downham makes you feel for the characters. The langauge in this book is simply captivating. When I first finished the book, I wasnt very taken with the ending, but it tells you before the book, this is a story about love, so keep that in mind, when you read the ending :) hope this is turned into a movie, start development now
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You Against Me This book will warm your heart. I think this is a really good book. In this book the girls’ brother has a police record, that believe it or because he was framed. The girl’s step sister is trying to find the guy who framed him with her brother. The girl falls in love and as she is falling in love something goes seriously wrong. The girl is going through so many emotions because of her brother getting a criminal record. The sister is so young; she doesn’t know what’s going on. The setting mostly goes on at there is no general setting, just intermediate. The sister is falling in love with same guy, I don’t know about you, but I’m sensing some problems. I suggest this book to anyone who likes conflict and love.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
such an amazing book that is worth reading. i picked this book out randomly and after reading the summary gave it  a try. This book definitely was better than expected! i ended up loving it so much. the characters were very real and i truthfully couldn't put the book down. i am reading it for the second time and am still loving every page.  its a great book and i highly recommend it. It deserves truly deserves 5 stars! 
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Very good book!!!
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I love this book, amazing story bad ending,i like the charectors,the book was very realistic luv the book <3
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