This is a well-loved novel. Every person I talk to speaks highly of the sequel to Beartown and the 4.34 average rating on Goodreads is a testament to that, so my expectations were high – never mind the fact I adored Beartown myself.
Us Against You is a raw manifestation of hockey culture, toxic masculinity and the love shared between brothers, and like Beartown, it reaches far beyond the sports world and dives deep into all relationship dynamics: friendships, marital, mother and daughter, small town versus small town. It has the same lovable, real characters that you came to know so well they feel like old friends and a collection of new characters that you learn to appreciate and accept as part of the small community in Sweden that you care so much for. So what is with my medial rating? Ps. I am well aware of the fact that this is a total #UnpopularOpinion.
Similar to Beartown, this book got off to a slow start, but this time around I trusted Backman wholeheartedly. Backman likes to set the stage, give a ton of backstory and show each person’s journey. I was hoping that, like Beartown, the book would suddenly click and all the pieces would come together, but I feel like I never stopped waiting for that to happen. I appreciated the in-depth set up of Beartown, but when a book is still setting the stage 200 pages in I couldn’t help but longingly glance at the unread books on my shelf.
I appreciate that every person in the story is a three dimensional character; I grew even more attached to my favorite soul (spoiler alert: Benji) and was disappointed by others who I had respected in the first book. However I had a difficult time digesting the immature dialogue between characters and the obvious foreshadowing, teasing statements that promised something dramatic around the corner that Backman kept dangling in front of us. My cherished rule of thumb, “show, don’t tell”, wasn’t fulfilled.
His writing style forces readers to invest; he breathes life into every character’s story and is skilled at making you really feel. Backman perfectly captures the ordinariness of everyday life in such a way that somehow makes it special.
The author succeeds in creating little storms throughout the book, conjuring emotions, navigating humanness and political issues and says what we’ve been trying to say, but have never found the right words. But the hurricane didn’t hit quite like it did in Beartown.
The characters and lessons learnt are the best part of this book, but to me this is a classic example of a sequel not living up to the original work.
Reviewed by: Christy