Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

This is a sequel to the popular book, Beartown, and as with that book there is not much I can include in this review as I don't want to give too much away.

The action picks up shortly after the events in Beartown (with the exception of the epilogue of that book which gave us insight several years into the future).  As a result of the key player of the Beartown hockey team having been accused of rape, the team is in danger of falling apart as most of the key players have moved to play for the rival Hed team.  The Beartown general manager, Peter, is left to try to save the team.

He is given some unlikely help (though it's hard to even tell if it's help at all that he's receiving) from a local city councillor who seems to be working for all sides in a complicated effort to further his political career.  As part of the rebuilding effort, Peter is given a female coach, Elizabeth Zackell, who is a great hockey player but not much of a people person.  She must also face the prejudices of the town given her gender.  Three key players on the proposed team are mostly familiar from the first book - Amat, the small and young but fast player who spoke out against the accused rapist; Benji, the former best friend of the accused rapist who did not take his side and continues to hide his gender identity; and Bobo, a strong enforcer but not great skater who defended Amat in a fight against those who supported the accused rapist thus cementing their friendship.  Added to that is Vidar, who is the younger half brother of a local gang member who has just served time in juvenile detention.

The book also reintroduces other characters we have met before - Maya, the rape victim and Peter's daughter as well as Peter's wife and son; Amat and Bobo's mothers as well as Bobo's father; Benji's mother and 4 sisters; Maya's best friend Ana; the old woman who runs the local bar as well as the regulars at the bar.  It takes reading the whole book to decide who the "good guys" and the "bad guys" are in this one which is part of what makes it such an engaging read.

Like the past book, the chapters and small sections within chapters are written from dozens of perspectives - sometimes it even takes a short re-read to figure out who is narrating at any given time.  This is another writing technique that makes the book hard to get into at first but hard to put down once you do as you really want to figure out how all the perspectives fit together.

If you liked Beartown, I recommend this for you. And though you could read it as a standalone, I think it's much better if you've read the first one.

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