This is a hard review for me to write, because while I can recognize that You Against Me has its great points, there were some things that kept me from really getting into the book and liking it. The biggest problem I had with the book is that I, unfortunately, didn’t connect to the characters. I ended up being more invested in Ellie than I was Mikey, if only because Ellie was the more likable and strangely relatable character. When a family member does something awful, what do you do? You love them, yes, and you know they aren’t all out evil. But you can’t ignore the fact that they’ve done something to someone. It doesn’t negate the good things they’ve done, but how do you move on from it? These are the things Ellie struggles with in the story and I found her journey to be very realistic and well written. The ending to it was great, and I liked her as a character.Mikey, our other main character, I was less enthusiastic about. I actually found him pretty unlikable overall, and there weren’t enough good points to make me really care about him. Maybe it’s just a personal thing, but I wasn’t really interested in his story, and at times I found myself wondering why the story was focusing on him instead of his sister Karyn, who had been raped. I don’t mind stories that focus on the loved ones of people who had been attacked, but when Karyn only makes a few appearances and otherwise isn’t much except a plot device to get our two main characters to meet, well... I start to take issue with it. Yes, she does have scenes and lines and you can feel her throughout the story, moving it along, but at times it felt like that’s all she was there for. A device to get the story going and to help our main characters meet. It was very disappointing and I kept wanting to focus more on her than I wanted to focus on Mikey.As for the romance, I wasn’t overly invested in that, either. I could maybe see how Ellie and Mikey could become interested in one another, but I still wasn’t thoroughly convinced they were in love. I think maybe if it’d developed a bit slower and they didn’t get together during the actual story, that would have been better. As it is, I see basic groundwork for a good romance but the pacing kept me from really enjoying it.At times the story was incredibly hard to read due to the rampant sexual shaming and victim blaming that it deals with. While you do get the impression that it’s wrong, no one ever comes right out and says it, and it’s even perpetuated by Ellie at some points. That was one of the lower points of the novel, that it is touched on that sexual shaming and victim blaming is bad but it never really comes right out and condemns it. Maybe Downham wanted to keep it from being a little too blatant, but in a case like this I think being blunt and blatant is a good thing to be.The pacing drags a little in the middle but otherwise it manages to keep a good momentum up. It’s a slower novel because it’s focused entirely on the characters and this situation they’re in, but even then the middle could have used some tightening. Downham’s prose is capable and very well suited to this kind of realistic and tough novel, and while I had problems with Mikey, he and Ellie are very well defined characters with their own individual voices that shine. Despite the problems, I do see how You Against Me is a great book. It’s just one that I failed to really connect with due to the characters and the storytelling choices Downham made. I would have preferred to read about Karyn rather than her brother, and some more development of Karyn herself would have made the book a lot better. Still, I’m interested in seeing what else Downham has to offer, so I’ll likely look into Before I Die and whatever else she has coming out next.