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The Ninja Reader

High-brow or downright pretentious, good PNR or sparkly vampires, I don't care about the premise so long as it entertains me.

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Bullying: The Social Destruction of Self
Laura Martocci

YOU AGAINST ME

You Against Me - Jenny Downham This review is harder to write than I thought.Seriously, I've started and erased it enough times to have written it twice. Alas, I am short on words, have been for quite some time, so forgive me if this doesn't come off as particularly articulate or... well... making sense.I discovered "Speak" last September, following the 'soft porn' debacle, and fell in love with Laurie Halse Anderson's writing. Her books are always centered around difficult, touchy topics, but you can't say for a single minute that it's just for shock factor. The subjects of rape, anorexia, guilt, depression are handled with sensitivity and respect not seen very often. Anderson is one of those few authors who write for teenagers without talking down on their audience, a phenomenon which has become, sadly, very prominent in YA.I'm telling you all this because I like Anderson very much, and that has made me compare books with an even slightly similar premise to hers. That might be the reason why I had such a hard time liking "You Against Me".Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that Jenny Downham doesn't handle her subject matter with the utmost respect. Quite on the contrary. She leads us into a world of subjective truth, one where it's one person's word against the other. She doesn't just show us how the victim of the alleged rape, Karyn, feels, but also the impact the event has on her family, and also on the rapist, Tom, and his family. Karyn's reality is a fragile one, because she falls victim to many of the questions raised when it comes to date rape: "Did she really not consent?", "Did she not invite sex in the way she dresses?", "Should she have gotten drunk?".Incidentally, I read this a little before I heard of Kenneth Clarke's remarks on the different "degrees" in rape. Perhaps I would have felt differently about this book if I'd waited a little.Here's the thing: Rape happens. One in every four women in the UK is assaulted each year, and in three forths of the cases, they suffer in the hands of someone they know - a relative, or a boyfriend, or even a friend. No matter who the rapist is, there is always the violation of the body, the violation of the mind, and in the case of date rape, the violation of trust. No, it doesn't matter how she was dressed. No, it doesn't matter if she flirted. And especially if she was drunk. In fact, having sex with a woman when she's clearly inebrated and unable to take care of herself is horrible because she trusted herself in your care. Those are the themes in "You Against Me", and they are supported perfectly.Also, I enjoyed how Downham developed the character of Ellie, how she showed her struggle between loyalty for her family and desire to tell the truth. It's another side of the problem, guilt, and it's not often portrayed in books.So why didn't I like it? Honestly, I wished the writing would grab me more. The pacing of the book is fine around the end, but they could have cut out fifty pages around the middle and wouldn't have lost anything. The other thing is that while Ellie's character is superb, the others fall pretty flat and two-dimensional. There's not enough complexity to them, and that makes up for some difficult reading. I would have liked to see more of Tom, or his father, more of Mikey's mother, hell, more of Karyn. If this was more of a character study book, like "Gone, Gone, Gone", it would have made up for some sluggishness in the plot.All in all, it's a good book, with some very important messages and themes. It is written well, and if you're a fan of a slow-burn kind of plot, I highly recommend it.