Us Against You (Beartown, #2)by Published 05 Jun 2018
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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 (Beartown, #2) Reviews
Where does one begin when it comes to describing an author whose books constantly amaze you to the point you cannot easily put them down for any reason other than an emergency? Fredrik Backman has struck gold with the second book in the Beartown series, Us Against You. After I survived a book daze last year with the series debut, I read another of his works which catapulted Backman into my top 5 of favorite authors. Once I learned he had written a second book in the Beartown series (they are all translated from Swedish) recently, I had to read this next one... and his publisher, Atria, contacted me to see if I was interested. How lucky can a guy get? When I finished it, Backman is now sitting pretty, completely unreachable for a good while, in my top 3 all-time favorite authors.
At first I was a little worried, I must admit. I'm not a big sports fan, and while I loved the first book, could I really become immersed in hockey again? I worked at Madison Square Garden for 10+ years and spent many a night with NY Rangers fans and players. Once I started reading the new book, I also realized the first 15% was a re-hash of the earlier book. It's extremely well-written, so it was easy and smooth, but what did that mean for the rest of the novel? Well that concern quickly disappeared because enter a smooth-talking politician playing games in the background to re-ignite the flames between Hed and Beartown all in the name of getting himself more power. All the earlier characters are back in action, fighting to save the Beartown hockey team, protect Maya AND Kevin (her rapist). What??? What's wrong with people is all I have to say. The words on the pages truly push readers to ask a simple question. Is the attack of one girl worth losing someone who could save an entire town from bankruptcy and possible dismay. Hopefully we all think FIRST about poor Maya, but then you wonder: Do you allow 1 person to keep suffering all in the name of saving the rest? Should the Anderssons just leave Beartown and start over, despite never having done anything wrong? It's questions like this that plague you as you read the book -- yet never ONCE does any character actually ask that. It's all subtle. And I'm not weighing in with my opinion as it's fiction... all meant to transport us to a world of torment and shock.
Enter my favorite character, Benji. He's tragic. He's powerful. He's weak. He's lost. He's yearning for something he can't control. He is trapped between right and wrong. The story focuses on him this time in the same respect as it did Maya last time. While he's not attacked in the same way as she was last time (as he'd kill anyone who tried to hurt him), Benji is abused on so many more levels. But don't worry, he gives back just as much as he gets, and that's why I adore him. He makes mistakes, but he fixes them. He hides, but he's got a plan to emerge more victorious. He loves his sisters and is an honorable man (boy? he's 17/18) we all should respect. But he's gay, and well, you know what that means: Beartown can't support him. Hed will do everything to hurt him. They constantly chant "Fags. Whores. Rapists." Yet deep down, you know they all want to support him. I'm not giving away any spoilers, as we learned he was gay in the first book. I just didn't expect the second to focus on him.
Yet Backman nearly killed me about 2/3 through when disaster happens and I thought for a moment, I can't finish this book. After what he's done to Benji, I'm just done. But I trudged on and I'm so glad I did. I can't think of another author right now who can let me down and build me up so many times in a book... to the point where they could be talking about hockey or pencils and I still feel a passion I rarely feel in life about most things outside of books. I want Beartown to win. I want Peter to get his dignity back. I want the new coach to prove women can be better than men at things. I want it all... and Backman delivers it all -- just never in the way I expect.
Someone loses. A few people actually. And it's harsh. You will cry. You will throw the book. But you will pick it up again because it's become part of you. This must become a movie. I will be the first in line to watch it, and I don't often go to the movies.
There's very little to dislike in this book. You may hate certain characters, but they make you love the story all that much more. You might disagree with a plot line, but it will lead you to the right ending. You may want to strangle a few teenagers, and honestly, it may be okay in this instance. I'm not advocating killing kids, but there are just some people who need to be punished for the things they say or do . (Don't quote me on that!!!)
I'm really left with... PLEASE give us a third book of equal power and humility. I will do anything.
Old characters reappear and new characters are introduced in this book, the follow-up to last year's phenomenal hit, Beartown. There's drama, marital difficulties, bullying, rivalries, political machinations, and heartbreak. This book may not have the impact of Beartown but fans will have much to enjoy with this new novel. Backman excels at insights into human nature and writing characters that are easy to care for.
The writing is beautiful with excellent character development. Many passages made me pause to savor his words. I didn't really care about the political maneuverings, which slowed the story down for me a bit, and I have a lot of difficulty understanding sports culture/rivalries. Even so, Backman delivers a poignant read that will satisfy his many fans.
*Publication date June 5, 2018
* I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Beartown is a hockey town by a forest in Sweden, but that won’t tell you much unless you know what it means to be a hockey town where lives are dominated by the sport and the thought of losing the team is devastating to so many. In “Beartown”, Backman says: “Why does anyone care about hockey?...Because it tells stories. " Indeed it tells stories once again in this sequel. This town feels familiar - the place in the forest, this hockey town , a community of parents and children still reeling from what happened there a couple of months before, characters that I came to care about. I was anxious to know what has happened with them - Maya, Leo , Amat, Benji , Ramona and others.
Beartown is about to lose its team and the resources will go to their rivals in the town of Hed. It’s a loss for the Five Uncles who sit at the bar each day and now won’t have anything to talk about . But for others, the pain and sadness is not because of hockey. It may seem that way at times but the pain that these characters are burdened with and the secrets they carry have more to do with life than with hockey. Leo is angry because he couldn’t protect his sister. Peter is devastated about his daughter but doesn’t really know how to show his love for his family and they are falling apart. Maya will forever be changed by what happened to her, silently breaking. Benji, the star hockey player and fighter is sad and angry over his dad and is keeping the secret of his true self. Ana, left by her mother and dealing with her alcoholic father on her own is a life saver to her best friend Maya.
It’s a slow churn at first and I thought somewhat repetitive, not with “Beartown” but within this book itself. I was feeling a little disappointed, but then something changed. I was captivated once again by Backman’s talent as he moves from one character to the next, as he creates a suspense which had me waiting for something awful to happen. It’s so introspective as we become privy to the thoughts and feelings of so many characters, so in-depth for such a cast of characters. The simple phrases that depict profound thoughts on what unconditional parental love is, about the depth of friendship, about marriage and ambition, expectations, rivalry, loyalty, love and hate are stunning. It’s so hard to really understand how hate can give way to violence in the guise of a sport rivalry, and perhaps it’s something more. In spite of my early reservations, I have to give this 5 stars since the rest of the book more than makes up for the slow start. Backman remains one of my favorite writers. If you loved ”Beartown”, this is a must read.
I received an advanced copy of this book from Atria Books through NetGalley.
Beartown is a town struggling to survive, left shell shocked and reeling after traumatic events swept through it with the force of a destructive emotional hurricane. We return to the place where hockey is loved with a religious passion, defining the community identity, with returning old and new characters. Any lover of sport will love and relate to this story, and those readers that are not should know that whilst this is ostensibly about hockey, it is in reality a tale of all that it is to be human. This is about people with all their complexities, flaws, ugliness, vulnerabilities, machinations, hatreds, courage, joy and hope. What I can guarantee is that you will be taken through an intense maelstrom of emotions, from the depths of despair, grief, sadness, right through to hope and joy. Beartown simmers with violence just waiting to be unleashed, presenting a challenge and quandries to community and individuals.
Thanks to manipulative political decisionmaking, the nearby town of Hed gains the resources and many of Beartown's hockey players, igniting strong feelings of them and us as a new hockey team is set up in response. An unexpected newcomer is appointed as coach, Elizabeth Zackell, a strong, tough and competent woman. Benji, with his secrets and inner demons gnawing at him, is made Captain, with the team including the gifted Amat and his best friend, Bobo, a grafter, along with the volatile Vidar, a goalkeeper with a ferocious temper. Peter Andersson faces family difficulties, his marriage to Kira is beginning to show its cracks, Maya's suffering continues though is eased to some degree with her strong friendship with Ana, and poor Leo thinks he should have protected his sister. As the rivalries and tensions escalate, danger and heartbreak lies ahead as individuals are tested to their limits.
Fredrik Backman writes a profoundly moving, multi-layered novel which will appeal to fans of any sport and to those drawn to the dynamics of a small town fighting to stay alive, where everyone knows everyone and their history. Beartown harbours secrets, prejudices, sexism, bullying, political intrigue and more. I continue to adore Benji, feeling for him throughout his troubles and Ramona, at the Bearskins pub. This is an introspective character driven story that is thought provoking in true Backman style touching on important issues such as parenting. Just absolutely brilliant reading, intense, twisted, gripping, full of suspense and I understand that another Beartown novel will follow, I look forward to renewing my acquaintance with these much loved characters. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Penguin Michael Joseph for an ARC.
5 Gut-Wrenching, Sock-it-to Me Stars!
Some of my favorite people, live in one of the most memorable of towns and they wear their hearts on their sleeves. Most however, wear their hearts on their jerseys. Their Hockey Jerseys that is. They used to be all the same. Then something happened. Something bad. And now Beartown and all of its residents are divided. Now it’s Bear v. Bull: Beartown v. Hed. And their hearts, as well as ours have been torn apart. “Us Against You.”
Peter Andersson’s life has been defined by Hockey. Being the GM of the Beartown team is all he knows. Even though he and his family lost almost everything last year, hockey was the one thing he could count on, till now. When he gets a second chance to save his team, Peter is relieved and then anxious, for nothing is as it seems. Politics has invaded Beartown, the Hockey team and Peter’s life. Which one is strong enough to survive?
Beartown is a place where Hockey rules. Always has, always will:
It’s a simple game, if you strip away all of the crap surrounding it and just keep the things that made us love it in the first place. Everyone gets a stick. Two nets. Two Teams. “Us Against You.”
For the last year, twelve year-old Leo Andersson has sat on the sidelines watching his family fall apart. First Maya and now his parents. The time for sitting and watching is over. Now is the time for action.
Maya and Ana are the best of friends. As long as they have each other, they can survive anything.
Beartown Hockey has received a new lease on life. A new coach has taken over, a coach who wants the best players. Players we know and love who have everything it takes to win and who love their town. Benji, Amat, Bobo and Vidar (the new star goalie with a bad temper and a big heart). Benji is now the Captain of the team and is responsible for everyone else. Benji, whose pain is the most palpable. Benji, whose story breaks me in two. Amat is the fastest player on the ice, no one can catch him now, nor will they ever be able to. Bobo loves hockey, but he loves his mother more and is the best son she could ever ask for.
For the last year, I have carried so many of these characters with me. Ramona (owner of the Bearskin Pub), Amat and Benji. My Benji. I just love him. I have wanted and needed to know that he was ok every second of every day, wondering, worrying, waiting. Reading both “Beartown” and “Us Against You,” I have felt Benji’s angst, fear and pain, it seeped in my veins and took over. “Us Against You” made me feel a myriad of emotions. It made me anxious - nerves endings completely raw, scared and sick to my stomach, and just a completely sobbing mess, many times over. Fredrik Backman makes you feel that. Time and again. He makes you feel every single thing his characters are feeling (whether it’s “Ove,” “Britt-Marie” or my Benji). To me, Benji and all of the other characters in this book are real. I consider most of them my friends and in case it’s not obvious, my heart bleeds Bear.
“Us Against You” is the sequel to Fredrik Backman’s “Beartown” which was one of my top two reads of last year, with Backman being my absolute favorite author. In order to get the full background into the characters, I suggest reading that book first. Though this novel started out a little slow, it takes off soon enough and delivers in a way that only Backman can. “Us Against You” is a sequel with heart and it stole mine immediately. I look forward to it grabbing yours in exactly the same way.
A huge thank you to Ariele Friedman at Atria / Simon & Schuster for providing me with an ARC of this novel to read and review. You made my year! Thank you also to NetGalley and the amazing Fredrik Backman. I love your characters Mr. Backman. Benji and Britt-Marie? Well, I hold them both very close to my heart.
Published on Goodreads, Twitter and Instagram on 3.18.18.
*Will be published on Amazon on 6.5.18.