Book Review: You & I by Emily Gillmor Murphy

I recently dove head first into a mad fantasy craze for books. It can be really difficult for me to get back into reading after a long break but if I find something to latch onto, especially a series, I’ll end up doing what I did recently and fly through ten books in two months. But then I was worried it would be difficult for me to switch genre and be gripped as easily as I was before. Enter Emily Gillmor Murphy with her debut novel, You & I.

YOU_AND_I__2_You & I has been sitting in my wardrobe for a shameful amount of time among a pile of “I’ll get around to reading that” books. But since the clean out to end all cleanouts, I rediscovered it and, for the sake of the writer in me, I decided it must take priority.

When I read the blurb on the back of the book, which talks about the two main characters and a bet, I thought I had guessed the story. I thought the blurb revealed the bet that Tom would take on and the fact that Olive would eventually find out. Much like any romantic comedy you will ever watch, you already expect to have a couple who will fall out and eventually reunite at the end. But as I read beyond what was presented as the obvious plot, I started to realise what the book is really about.

It’s much darker than I expected to be, but in a good way. It explores dark themes and battles that students of that age deal. Among the light-hearted sex-crazed parties and getting dangerously hammered, there were very real inner demons that everyone in the book had to face, not just the main characters. The book was not really about the plot that was explored on the back of the book. It was about the characters themselves, their personal battles and development.

Some would argue that the plot is predictable, but I think only as predictable as any book. You might guess and hope for a particular ending and it’s often delivered. But you have no idea how you’re going to get there and if the so-called “predictable” ending wasn’t given to you, you would probably complain.

For sheer character development and a look into what’s really going on behind people’s masks and beyond closed doors, I couldn’t put this book down and I would say my reading dry spell is well and truly broken.

Blurb of You & I:

Each September, thousands of students walk through the doors of University College and Trinity College, Dublin. This year, Olive and Tom will be among them.

Eighteen-year-old Olive is fresh from the country, and her eyes are opened wide by the big-city goings on of her new friends. When she starts to be pursued by Tom, the scruffy maverick who’s seduced half the girls she’s met, she’s adamant he’s not for her. But when a tragedy befalls her family, it’s Tom who proves her best friend – until that is, she discovers his real motivations.

Tom has never thought further than the next party, the next girl, the next drink. But now, with his own broken family about to cast him off and his social habits spinning out of control, he seems to have destroyed his relationship with Olive. What started out as a stupid dare metamorphoses into something much more serious.

Set against the backdrop of youth on the brink of adulthood, and capturing the contrasts of the haves versus the have-nots, the worldly versus the innocent, Emily Gillmor Murphy’s You & I is an assured debut that will transport readers straight to the rollercoaster experience of growing up and falling in love.