If someone told you that your brother committed a terrible crime, would you believe them?
If your sister told you that she had been raped, would you believe her?
This is the basic premise of the Jenny Downham book You Against Me. This fast paced story is told from two points of view: Mickey, whose sister Karyn says she has been raped by Tom Parker, and Ellie, Tom’s sister. Mickey will do anything to protect his family, even threaten to extract revenge on Tom so Karyn will feel safe enough to leave her house — but so will Ellie. The further you read, the more sympathy you feel not only for Karyn but for Mickey, Ellie, their parents, and even a bit for Tom himself.
Jenny keeps the issue of Tom’s actual guilt vague throughout most of the book. While it’s no doubt that something went on that night, the real question is whether Karyn consented or not, and this is where the book asks some tough questions. Ellie once says “why would he [Tom] rape her when she was clearly going to give it to him anyway?” and the readership is asking the same questions. The book also brings up the topic of consent under intoxication as well as regret masked as rape.
But Jenny just doesn’t stop there. Because Karyn is from the Estates, the poor neighbourhood, and Tom is from the rich side of town, the inevitable question surfaces, is Karyn lying in order to get money? Again, the further one reads the clearer it becomes that money does not make a happy family, nor a good person.
Rather than paint Tom as a horrible rapist, the story paints a stunning picture of the complexities of modern life, and what it takes just to make it through one day. The characters are believable and richly textured. All of them have their strengths and weaknesses, their good and bad points.
The setting is stunning and one cannot help but be swept away by the sea-side town.
Jenny Downham is a strong writer, and this story is proof of that. I can’t wait to read more of her works.