☆☆➹⁀☆ 4 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆
What it’s about:
After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local junior 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. As the tension between the two towns simmers, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to try to save the Beartown club.
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 heated.
As the big game between Beartown and Hed 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.
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At times sad and depressing, and at other times filled with love, loyalty and friendship, Us Against You is destined to be another beloved book by Fredrik Backman. The pre-amble at beginning of Us Against You kept me on edge and turning pages. The story tension starts high and remains as taut as an over-tightened guitar string that is ready to break on the next hard strum.
The cast of characters is very broad, and Mr. Backman skillfully shows the breadth of the ripple effect from the traumatic events in his prior novel, Beartown. The Andersson family and Beartown are torn apart from the prior spring’s scandal. Us Against You is told in a third person narrative. The transitions between scenes within chapters are choppy. In some cases it felt like I was concurrently watching security footage from different cameras on multiple screens. However, those scenes are how we readers are able to see into the souls of many of the Beartown inhabitants.
Hockey and the feud with the neighboring town of Hed infuse almost every life, conversation, and relationship in Beartown. Hockey is the oxygen the townsfolk breathe; therefore it is easy to manipulate multiple groups with political promises and threats by intertwining sports, medical care and employment. In addition to a delivering a healthy cautionary regarding politicians, Backman passes along lessons on rivalry, surviving, perseverance, loss, loneliness, compromise, and responsibility.
Mr. Backman is a good storyteller. However, I did not feel that the level of emotional intimacy matched that of book one, Beartown. While I was invested in this sequel from the first page, it wasn’t until the story was building up to crescendo that I decided I liked this book. Us Against You was not one of my favorites from Backman, but the power and worthiness of the story continue to grow on me.
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