I cannot thank Atria Books enough for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review and for having me on this book tour! I won’t lie when I say I was scared to start this book. It is one of my most anticipated reads of 2018 and I LOVED Beartown. So like any true sequel I worried it wouldn’t be as good as the first. I also was scared of all the emotions Backman was about to put me through. But I did it, I just dove in and I fell in love all over again, with his writing, these characters, and this story. From chapter one I was already tearing up, Backman’s writing is by far some of the best writing I’ve ever read and Us Against You is no different, it is Backman at his best. I give this 5 whole stars.
“We are the bears! We are the Bears! We are the Bears! The bears from Beartown!”
After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local 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. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.
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 acute.
As the big match 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.
Gosh, these characters are everything to me. Once again we are swept up in a town that loves its hockey, and even though I don’t love hockey I love the love this town has for it and how it brings them all together, even at times when it seems to tear them apart. It may be a story that revolves around hockey but it is about so much more. Maya, Ana, Leo, Benji, Amat, Bobo, all the rest, every single character is so special to me and I loved reading their stories beyond how it ended in Beartown. Each character is developed so well and some are easier to connect with than others but each one is important and lovable in their own ways. I felt apart of this town and part of the bears, I’ve very rarely felt as drawn in to a group of characters more than I do in Backman’s books.
“People we love will die. We will bury our children beneath our most beautiful trees.”
Since this still deals with characters and stories from Beartown its important to note that topics such as rape, abuse, and intolerance are discussed. But just like with Beartown, Backman writes these topics with grace and with lessons waiting to be learned. And with the bad comes good because this story also deals with family, love, forgiveness, growth, acceptance, and friendship.
I will say I think I liked Beartown just a smidgen more. This felt like a sequel that didn’t necessarily need to happen, as though there wasn’t much of a plot besides following these characters past the ending of the last book. But this story was welcomed none the less because this story and these characters are so amazing. I would love a story focused on Leo (please!)
Backman will always be one of my favorite authors. He writes so well I can’t recommend him enough. Every word, every sentence, builds context for something later on and when it all comes together it is beautiful. I am in awe of Backman’s talent and I can’t wait to see what he has in store next!
“We’ll stand tall if you stand tall! We’ll stand tall if you stand tall!”