The trial is nearly over and its time of the closing statements, but this is a trial with a difference. The defendant sacks his lawyer and decides to make the closing statement himself. Over two weeks the defendant stands before the Judge and Jury telling the events that led up to the shooting of twenty year old young man, Jamil. He feels he was advised wrongly by his lawyer, told to miss details out, but he thinks these details are important to his defence. What has he got to lose, he is looking at a life sentence if found guilty. There are eight pieces of evidence, and as he talks through them one by one, his life is in the Jury’s hands, will they find him guilty or not guilty?
You Don’t Know Me is a wonderfully original read. Told completely by the defendant, it is only his voice we hear throughout the book, it is almost like a soliloquy. Fitting the defendant, a black young man from London, his speech to the Jury and to us the reader is in an accent and slang terms used in the rougher areas of London where he is from. I thought this added authenticity to both the defendant and his story.
You may I have noticed that we are never given the name of the defendant, this makes it less personal in some ways, I found his story could be the story of any other young black man from his area of London, caught up with the gangs that run each area. The other characters in the book are the defendant’s mother and sister, friend Curtis and girlfriend Ki, the other two main protagonists in the killing of Jamil. All characters I found very believable and their story, although shocking to many of us, is a life that many young people lead on council estates. My eyes were really opened to how some young people have to live, and what challenges they face on a daily basis.
You Don’t Know Me is a powerful and compelling novel, a lone man’s tale of the gang culture prevalent in today’s society. It is very dark in places but ultimately it is a story of a young man who doesn’t want to follow the crowd and be in a gang, a young man who is very protective of those he loves and it is that protective nature that. has out him in the court room. This is a truly original novel, that will engage and capture your attention from the first page, until the brilliantly, unexpected final page.