REVIEW: Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

Posted June 24th, 2018 by in Blog, HJ Recommends, Review, Women's Fic - Chick-lit / 4 comments

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In Us Against You (Beartown #2) by Fredrik Backman, Still reeling from the shocking events they’ve dealt with over the past several months, everyone in Beartown, Sweden is just praying for a light at the end of the tunnel. But when rumors begin to circulate that a rival, their neighboring town Hed, might be taking away jobs–and worst of all–their beloved hockey team, that sets off a series of unfortunate events that draws every resident of Beartown into the melee. Young or old, athlete or businessman, it doesn’t matter. Each resident picks a side and is ready to fight for their team and their town.

‘Inside every large story there are always plenty of small ones. While three young men in Beartown thought they were in the process of losing their club, a stranger was already constructing a team with them.’

In amidst the chaos are several teenagers who are struggling with not only their own personal demons but also with the need to do something for Beartown. Each of them in their own way will contribute to the rise and fall of their town. Some become part of a new hockey club with surprising coaches, whether it be in Hed or Beartown, and give the sport their all. Others will be fodder for local gossip, ridicule, and sadly become outcasts of a sort. But they will all learn valuable lessons about trust, camaraderie, family, and community. Lessons that will live with them long after they go off into adulthood and build careers and families of their own.

“Sometimes a team needs an enemy to unite them.”

A story that was beautifully layered and filled with an amazing depth of perception in regard to emotions and people’s actions, Us Against You was a raw look at one small community’s fall from grace and their ultimate redemption.

‘When you strip away all the nonsense surrounding it, the game is simple: everyone gets a stick, there are two nets, two teams. Us against you.’

Possible triggers: Mention of rape, alcoholism and drug use, bloody fight scenes (it IS about hockey, after all!), bullying and derogatory threats.

Us Against You turned out to be a truly epic book. Not only was it pretty close to five hundred pages, but just about the entire town was involved in the plot. Which meant that there were a LOT of characters to get to know and keep track of, something I struggled with in the first quarter or so of the book. But once I got the gist of who everyone was and what they brought to the story, I was hooked. I did also have to get used to Fredrik Backman’s observational writing style as this was the first book of his I have read. The flow started off a bit stilted until I figured out how he was piecing together every interaction, every conversation and situation, keeping his readers guessing as things definitely weren’t always what they seemed. Nor did everything work out as you would have expected. (Not always in a bad way.)

I won’t get into details on specific characters as there were just too many to describe here. But the community itself, Beartown in Sweden, as a whole was like most small towns and had all the trappings of such a rural location. They had the different social and economic groups as well as the condescension and occasional hurt feelings you’d sadly expect. But the biggest thing to know about Beartown was that they were obsessed with hockey. And as a fan of the sport, it was interesting to see what the younger athletes, the up-and-coming stars, went through in their training–mentally and physically. And how a lot of individual issues in the community as well as within the team–and a neighboring team in the next town over–caused a domino effect of bad things to happen to them all.

There may be a few tough moments for readers to get through, including some heartbreaking situations, but I was thankful that Backman didn’t gloss over anything. He kind of let the characters be who they truly were, their many flaws and all, and showed every side to their personalities. I appreciate the realness it added to an already deep story and I think it will help readers connect with the cast, even some people you might be surprised to feel empathy towards.

It might be going in reverse, but now that I’ve read Us Against You, I want to go back to book one, Beartown, and see how it all began. What the initial reasons were that caused this forest town to almost implode. Driven by true to life characters and a storyline that kept progressively unfolding in an intriguing manner, I think readers will embrace this utterly memorable story.
 

Book Info:

Publication: Published June 5th 2018 (first published August 21st 2017) | Atria Books | Beartown #2

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Beartown and A Man Called Ove, hailed as “a writer of astonishing depth [with] the remarkable ability to make you understand the feelings of each of a dozen different characters” (The Washington Times), a heart-wrenching story of how loyalty, friendship, and love carry a town through its darkest days.

After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.

Us Against You is a declaration of love for all the big and small, bright and dark stories that form and color our communities. Compelling and heartbreaking, it’s a roller-coaster ride of emotions and a showcase for “Fredrik Backman’s pitch-perfect dialogue and unparalleled understanding of human nature” (Shelf Awareness).

 

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