Book Reviews

Us Against You (Beartown #2) by Fredrik Backman– Book Review

A photo of the book Us Against You (Beartown #2) by Fredrik Backman

Warning – possible spoilers! (Tiny ones, though, and I’ll try to avoid even those; I swear I’ll give my best not to ruin it for you… :-))

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman – Book Details

TITLE – Us Against You

SERIES – Beartown, book #2

AUTHOR – Fredrik Backman

GENREliterary fiction, contemporary, sports

YEAR PUBLISHED – 2017

PAGE COUNT – 448

MY RATING – 5 of 5

RATED ON GOODREADS – 4.34 of 5

Initial Thoughts

I read Beartown last year and I absolutely adored it! (You can check out my review here.) It became one of my favorite books of all times, I practically didn’t stop thinking about it. Or recommending it to people.

A few months ago, I started reading the sequel, Us Against You. The problem was, I had just read several Backman’s books at the time and a few more literary fictions, and I just felt like I cannot handle one more. Though I could see objectively that Us Against You was a great book, I didn’t enjoy the read.

So, I put the book down and decided to make a break until I get back in the mood for something similar. Finally, a few weeks ago I started to feel like I was getting there, so I thought – now is the time. I missed some of the characters so much, I was so excited (and a bit terrified) to see where they go next.

Plus, the third book in the Beartown series, The Winners, should be out in October 2021 and hopefully it will be translated to English by the end of the year. So, why not start preparing now?

What It Is About

“It’s easy to say that we should have done everything differently, but perhaps you wouldn’t have acted differently, either. If you’d been afraid, if you’d been forced to pick a side, if you’d known what you had to sacrifice. Perhaps you wouldn’t be as brave as you think. Perhaps you’re not as different from us as you hope.”

After the events from the book #1 in the series, the Beartown community is left shattered. To add insult to injury, the hockey team that was the center part of the community, may soon cease to exist.

A couple of new people are coming to the town. Everyone is picking sides. People are still confused, wounded and angry. No one is ready to back down.

Everything clearly slowly leads to another tragedy…

So, that’s in short what’s going on in the book. But the thing with summarizing Backman’s books is that you can describe the plot in a few sentences, but that’s never what the story is really about…

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman – My Review

“Our spontaneous reactions are rarely our proudest moments. It’s said that a person’s first thought is the most honest, but that often isn’t true. It’s often just the most stupid. Why else would we have afterthoughts?”

First things first – leaving this book for when I’m really in a mood for it turned out to be a really good decision. From the moment I started reading it the second time around, it just felt so much better.

Which also goes to show how unreliable reviews can be. Sometimes when I really, really don’t like a book even though everyone loves it, maybe I should just put it down and read it at another time.

But, back to Us Against You.

The beginning was very slow, explaining and repeating everything that happened in the book #1. It felt like it was written more for people who never read Beartown than for those who did.

But then, Backman is the king of repetition, so a lot of it was intentional. As always, he uses repetition in an absolutely extraordinary way. He plays and teases with it, proves points and showcases how life can be incredibly complicated and increasingly simple at the same time.

“Life is a weird thing. We spend all our time trying to manage different aspects of it, yet we are still largely shaped by things that happen beyond our control.”

In Beartown, Backman created a community of people forced to fight together just to survive. And it’s a rough life, you can often find them on the ground. But, there’s always a lot of strength in their weakness.

Harsh life shaped these people into who they are today and change doesn’t come easily to them. That creates conflicts not only on the surface, between the locals, but also in their hearts. It is sometimes painful to watch, but it is always necessary.

In one interview, Backman said:

“…I think I like small places more than big cities because in big cities people can spend their whole lives without ever having to hang out with anyone who is not exactly like them… In a small town you don’t have that choice: People there are going to influence you, whether you like it or not.”

There are no many writers who can make me feel so completely helpless and vulnerable. He writes about people and life and humanity in a way that is hard to explain – you just need to experience it.

Every little thing in his books matters and, one way or another, it all comes together in the end. Impossible decisions. Lifetimes of regret. Dozens of little tragedies. Hundreds of little wins. Thousands of little bangs.

“Sometimes people have to be allowed to have something to live for in order to survive everything else.”

Hockey has never been just hockey in Beartown. People’s lives are being defined by it. It is an undeniable, unstoppable force that affects Beartown in both direct and indirect ways. It effectively gives the townsmen a place on the social ladder, determines who their friends and enemies are going to be and shapes their futures.

But, hockey also put people’s moral and humanity to a test. A lot of them failed. And the very thing that used to bring people together is now setting them apart.

“All sports are silly. All games are ridiculous. Two teams, one ball, sweat and grunting, and for what? So that for a few baffling moments we can pretend that it’s the only thing that matters.”

From the start, you can feel the tension building up. Everything slowly spiraling out of control.

Sometimes you can almost feel the clock ticking down. Small things gathering on their way to cause something irreparable. And honestly – it got me on the edge of my seat, worried not only for my favorites, but for everyone involved. It was oh so easy to picture myself in those people’s shoes.

“To stop the note blowing away, the person delivering it has pinned it down with an ax. Notes can blow away so easily otherwise, when the wind changes direction.”

Backman can always make me tear up, but that is not because his stories are sad or heartbreaking, but because of how honest and touching they are. I don’t think I ever finished one of his books thinking – well, this was really depressing.

Even when he writes about heart wreaking tragedies, it’s the small things that get me. Or rather – it’s his ability to show that those small things where what mattered the most in the end.

Backman’s books are of those kind that feel like an event in my life. They change me a little. Make me question my own opinions. I always experience his stories rather than just read them.

“Life is so damn, damn, damn tough sometimes that it’s almost unbearable. Even if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

There’s just one thing I don’t really like about his storytelling. I won’t say here what it is (it’s not a spoiler spoiler, but it might give you some clues). But you can see from my rating how much it really bothered me. Everything else was just too superior for the minor issues to stand a chance.

Us Against You made me feel things. It was moving and touching and incredibly relatable and everything a book needs to be to make me laugh and cry at the same time.

The book #3 cannot come soon enough. Though I suspect it is going to be one of those cases when I really want to finish the series, but really, really don’t want to finish the series…

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