It's funny, when I read the back of this book I assumed it took place in Canada. And I'm apparently not the only one who thought so. It was only when I saw that it was in translation that I took a closer look and found out it was actually set in Sweden. Apparently the quintessential Canadian story is also a Swedish one.
Bear Town is a small, dying town in the forests of Sweden. They have cold dark winters, dwindling employment and not much to get excited about other than the local junior hockey team which looks like it may make its way to the finals in the capital. This hasn't happened in years and everyone is hopeful a successful team will encourage the council to put a hockey school in the town, bringing with it much growth in all sectors.
What I really loved about this book is how many perspectives were covered - the star player, Kevin, and his uptight, distant, rich parents; the GM, Peter, his wife Kira, daughter Maya, and son Leo; the coach of the junior team, David; the older coach of the senior team, Sune; the other hockey players, Benji, Bobo, Amat, Lyt...; Maya's best friend, Ana; the team sponsors, President, and fans. At the start it was a bit hard to keep them straight, but by the end I feel I knew them all.
On the day the junior team wins the semi-finals, Kevin commits a terrible act against Maya and the townspeople are all divided in how to approach it. No one is left untouched and while some of the reactions are totally predictable, others surprised me. I ended up particularly sensitive to Kevin's best friend, Benji, who was also hiding big secrets of his own. I also liked the ending which gave a snapshot of where the kids ended up 10 years later.
I can't really say much more without getting into the complexities of the story in too much detail, but I definitely recommend this book.