Another intense and uncompromising novel from the critically acclaimed author of Before I Die.
If someone hurts your sister and you're any kind of man, you seek revenge, right?
If your brother's accused of a terrible crime but says he didn't do it, you defend him, don't you?
When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her, his world begins to fall apart.
When Ellie's brother is charged with the offence, 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.
Jenny Downhamwas an actress for many years before concentrating on her writing full-time. She lives in London with her two sons.
You Against Me
Random House Australia
Author: Jenny Downham
Question: What inspired you to write You Against Me?
Jenny Downham: I was contracted to write a second book for my publisher, but actually knew very little when I started writing. I had a few ideas, but they were abstract, theoretical, as if I knew the tone of the piece, but nothing else.
I always use free writing techniques when I start a new project. This is a bit like improvising in theatre - throwing words down and not planning anything in advance. Most of it goes in the bin, but the strongest themes and voices keep returning.
After months of this, I began to know more. I was haunted by a small seaside town, by a girl called Karyn who alleged something terrible had happened to her and by her brother, Mikey who was out for revenge.
Question: What made you decide to change careers and begin writing?
Jenny Downham: As an actor I worked for seven years with a community theatre company based in London. We used improvisation techniques to take stories to young people who wouldn't normally have access to them - in prisons, hospitals, young offender's units, youth clubs and housing estates. I spent many years putting myself in imaginary situations and playing all sorts of people I had absolutely nothing in common with and would never normally be cast as. I gave up acting when my second son was born because it was too difficult travelling with two young children. But telling stories on my feet in front of tough audiences was the very best apprenticeship for my writing!
Question: What research went into You Against Me?
Jenny Downham: I interviewed criminal lawyers, social workers, family support workers and police officers. I watched court cases and read lots of books.
The research really grounded the novel, but it slowed me down a lot too. All the people I needed to talk to were busy professionals, some of whom charge a fortune for ten minutes of their time and I was asking if they would talk to me for hours for free!
Question: Are the characters of You Against Me based on anyone you know?
Jenny Downham: I write from the imagination, and I use acting techniques. I keep notebooks and diaries for the characters, researching them as if I was going to play them on stage - what they like to eat, what their hopes and fears are. It doesn't all get in the book, but it helps me to know who they are. Some days I might even embody them - breathe like them, say all the things they might say out loud, over and over, until the words sound right.
Question: Finish this sentence; What's the best thing about books?
Jenny Downham: The best thing about books is that they can transport you into other worlds and other lives, can make you think, move you, address difficult situations, confront social issues and possibly help you deal with real-life challenges.
Interview by Brooke Hunter