Book Review: Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

Us Against You 1

Publish Date: June 5, 2018

Only Fredrik Backman could get me to read a SECOND book about Hockey!

This is my most highly anticipated book of 2018. I received an advance copy of this book from Atria Books through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Beartown 1

Fredrik Backman extends the story’s foundation that was laid in Beartown. We join the story as Beartown is on the verge of losing its hockey club, due to the majority of players migrating to the rival Hed team and the lack of sponsors. All of the characters that we know and love – Peter, Kira, Maya, Ana, Benji, Amat, Bobo, William, Ramona, and Sune – are reeling from the life-changing incidents that happened in Beartown.

Each are broken, sad, and coping with their struggles in different ways. Peter and Kira’s marriage implodes as both withdraw from each other; Maya will be forever scarred by the rape; Ana is dealing with an alcoholic father; Benji is acting in dangerous ways to avoid facing his true self; and, Bobo and Amat are living with the aftermath of their decisions made in Beartown.

The reader gets a new insight into the movers and shakers, and the politics of Beartown, a town whose livelihood centers around hockey and their factory. There are new characters like Richard Theo, a manipulating politician with hidden motives. There is a new spotlight on Maya’s 12 year old brother Leo and how he deals with his feelings about his sister’s rape. We get to know the members of The Pack, an influential group with a deep love of hockey and a Sopranos-type attitude. We get to know the new A-team coach, Elizabeth Zackell, who completely shakes up the team and the standard way of doing things.

The hockey match between Beartown and Hed blows open both towns mutual contempt. 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 will linger in your mind for a long time. It’s a story that you’ll never forget.Beartown 2

I loved this book so much.

Us Against You is just as captivating as Beartown. This is a must-read for those that loved Beartown. And it definitely lived up to my expectations.

What I loved about it:

The philosophical prose. Backman’s writing is just stellar, and the best that I’ve ever encountered. He sprinkles philosophy on parental love, friendship, marriage, power, loyalty, love and hate throughout the book. Like Beartown, I found myself nodding and highlighting so many quotes because it was so darn thought provoking. Backman should write self-help books because he’s so insightful.

Characters that you root for. Backman developed his characters so well in Beartown that I felt like I knew them. I wanted them to heal from their pain and overcome their challenges. This book is definitely a character study.

Characters that you get to know even better. The stories of Kira, Leo, Bobo, Benji’s sisters, Janette, and others are extended in this book. Leo’s story develops as he deals with his feelings with his sister’s rape. We get to know the members of The Pack, a powerful group with a deep love of hockey, their town, and make their own rules.

Relatable human struggles. There are so many themes in this book that continue from Beartown, – coming of age, marriage, ethical decisions, family priorities, good vs. evil, hate, love, self-doubt. This book also has a dark side with violence, harassment, bullying,  prejudice, jealousy.

New characters. We are introduced to new characters like Richard Theo, a manipulating politician that acts as a savior and a snake. He knows what motivates people and he uses this to get what he wants. He reminds me of Leland Gaunt in Stephen King’s Needful Things. We get to know the new A-team coach, Elizabeth Zackell, who completely shakes up the team and the standard way of doing things.  We learn about Vidar, the bad boy – troublemaker goalie with a rap sheet.

The storming, forming, and norming of a new team. I loved experiencing the evolution of the new A-team, from the new coach’s style to how the team learns to work together.

Sports rivalry. The inside peek into rivalry in sports is so fascinating. It brings rivalry to a whole new level for me, and I got to know it better through these books.

I loved the little glimpses into the character’s future, like Maya on tour as a successful singer and Amat playing professional hockey. These glimpses reassured me that the characters would be OK despite their present turmoil.

Interestingly, this book is even less about hockey games than it was in Beartown. The first puck wasn’t even in play until 75% in the book.

You don’t need to read Beartown to enjoy this book (however, it’s strongly recommended!) because Backman does an excellent job of weaving in the backstory so that the reader understands it, without retelling it completely. I appreciated this because it made me recall parts of the Beartown plot without having to reread it.

I savored this book and didn’t rush through it because I knew that it was going to be good. And I was in mourning when it ended, because I wanted it to go on.

This story is like building a house. Beartown is the grading and site prep, and lays the foundation and framing, windows, doors, roofing and siding. Us Against You builds the electrical, plumbing, HVAC, insulation, drywall, trim and painting. I really hope Fredrik Backman writes Book #3 and finishes the Beartown house.

Us Against You is an unforgettable sequel to Beartown and it’s just as good as the first. It has everything that you love about Beartown, and more. I think it’s incredible and for me, I doubt that any other book that I read this year will be better than this one.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars 5 Stars

You can pre-order Us Against You through this link.

5 thoughts

  1. Fantastic review. I definitely had the same feeling when it ended, and Backman’s touching writing style bonded me with the characters so much!! I wanted to give them hugs..
    Genius comparison between house building and this book. So true!

    Liked by 1 person

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