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Us Against You
by Fredrik Backman

April 15, 2023
















The 2nd book in the Beartown trilogy - Us Against You.  I have some mixed feelings about this one.  Fredrik Backman is one of my favorite authors.  Anxious People helped me through a really rough point in life.  My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry made me sob (while wearing a mask on an airplane, no less).  He’s just brilliant.  And one of those writers who I aspire to be a completionist of, but also feel obligated to give all his books five stars.  That being said, the first book in this saga - Beartown - left me unimpressed.  I read it last year during a transition in life where I most definitely should have been reading fluffy, rom-com novels and was not in the best headspace for a story dealing with heavy topics.  Still, I don’t know that any writer would’ve been able to make me understand a town obsessed with hockey.  Just not my jam (even if it’s actually a story of friendship, family, community, and coming-of-age disguised as a sports drama).  


The final book of this trilogy (The Winners) was released last year, and the podcasts I listen to RAVE about it.  Like best-book-I-read-in-2022 reviews. Respecting their opinions, I decided to give this trilogy one more shot, start from where I’d left off, and put my name on the waiting list at the library.  


And I’m so glad I did! Us Against You was MUCH better than Beartown.  I think my problems with Beartown were:


  • Being in the incorrect headspace, as mentioned before

  • A majority of the characters being teenagers 

  • Way too much hockey, and I didn’t understand the town’s obsession

  • It was a LONG book


As I started Us Against You, I had a much better idea of what I was getting myself into (teenagers with problems playing hockey), which probably helped my expectations a bit.  But maybe because we’re about to start our own family, I was able to connect more to the parental characters and the lessons shown through family relationships.  I’ve been to an NHL game now, and at least understand the rules of hockey.  There were a lot more big-picture tie-ins to life (something I associate with Backman) in this second novel. Long story short, there were many more pluses to this reading experience compared to the first book in the trilogy.  


While I enjoyed this novel and the way it made me think and feel, there were still some factors that made me not able to rate it 5 stars:


  • Still more hockey than I care for; I’ve never been a part of a community that cares so deeply about sports (and my city won the Super Bowl this year, so that’s saying something), so it’s just really hard for me to relate to.  Characters literally threatened to kill each other over hockey.  I don’t get it.

  • There was a lot more political manipulation involved in this novel - like external forces pitting characters against each other rather than actual, legit reasons for being angry with someone 

  • It was a still a LONG book


I loved the chapters exploring Peter and Kira’s marriage.  I loved how succinctly Backman is able to express themes (which makes the 448 page count a little mind-boggling).  I loved the “flash-forwards” that were shared for some of the characters - we learn someone is going to go pro, another becomes a musician, another becomes a dad.  The last few chapters were INSANE.  Backman set it up so I knew what was going to happen, but was still in the dark about who or why or how.  Definite page-turner, despite the rest of the book being a slow burn.  


Overall, this was a 4-star book - I’d recommend it, but not shout its praises from the rooftops. And while I’m excited to read the final book in the trilogy, I think I need an emotional break before I jump right back into the world Backman’s created. 

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