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.
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.