Us Against You

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Jun 2018

Member Reviews

There is something about every Fredrik Backman book. It's a feeling you get, it's the connection to the characters or even an entire town. It is the diving into more than a story, but it is the living of an experience alongside the characters. It's a story about hockey, but not at all about hockey. Backman is a master storytelling, playing at the emotions of a reader. I'd be amazed if you could get through this novel without shedding a tear, but don't let that deter you from giving it a chance. After Beartown, don't hesitate, get right into Us Against You.
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I worry that I can't do this book justice merely by writing a review. This book by Fredrik Backman, a follow up to the unrivaled Beartown, tells the story of the aftermath of a sexual assault in a small town where hockey is king and rules all.

At the heart of this book is the game of hockey, which I'm not the biggest fan of, despite the fact that I am a Canadian. I worried that I wouldn't enjoy the two books in the Beartown series, however upon reading I discovered that while hockey is at the heart of these books, it is also unimportant. The premise of this book is simple- the Beartown hockey team has been disbanded following a sexual assault accusation against the best player. Most of the team have relocated to the team in Hed, and as a new Beartown team is formed with new players, tension mounts.

Meanwhile the family of the sexual assault victim is dealing with the aftermath of the accusation and resulting fallout. No one is left unscathed as the family tries to piece their lives back together.

This is a powerful, moving, and beautiful book despite the dark subject matter. It is about more than hockey. It is about loyalty and friendship, marriage and family. It is about hope for the future and about doing the right thing. I truly loved this powerful book by this incomparable author and I will read this book over and over again.

I can't recommend this highly enough, but if you're considering reading this please read Beartown first as it is essential to enjoying this book to the fullest.
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Excellent follow up to BearTown.  I absolutely loved it.  The characters are believable and well-drawn.  I definitely need to pick up more Backman.
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In this sequel to Beartown, returning readers will find the first 50+ pages recap what transpired in Book 1. I thought the sequel started out slow and seemed less about hockey and more about the people who live in the small town of Beartown, a town that was struck with tragedy and scandal.

There are some new characters including a new hockey coach, this time a female, which creates controversy. The story covers many weighty issues like homophobia, suicide and violence and, while I don't have a problem with meaty issues, this book came across as a little too preachy at times. I also wasn't a fan that the author overdid the foreshadowing in this one as well.

Don't get me wrong, this author knows how to write about people and small town life, there are many beautiful passages that will make you think. Readers who love stories about close knit, small town life and, those who love character driven novels, this series is for you. Bachman has the unique ability of creating characters who are able to feel empathy when individuals suffer.

Some readers have described this series was an emotional roller coaster, I didn't see it as such but, it certainly was darker, sadder and even a bit gritty at times.  If you plan on reading this series, I'd recommended reading the books in order.
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This was enjoyable follow-up to Beartown. I really love the way Fredrik Backman writes. His writing just feels unique to me, which is a nice change from the same old same old I get used to. He draws you in and keeps you hooked. From the beginning you know someone will die, but you have to keep getting psyched out before the actual death occurs. There are a bunch of set-ups where you think, "This is it," and it takes a twists. The actual death is a quick punch to the gut. I just love the way he writes and explores individual characters. In all his books, it is his characters that stand out. He truly writes outstanding and fascinating characters. They are so diverse and flawed, I love it. This book throws you right into the mess surrounding the events that unfolded in Beartown. It explores the aftermath and how it affected the whole town. Hockey, as always, is at the center of everyone's lives, whether they want it to be or not. It brings people together and tears them apart. Overall, I really enjoyed this heart-wrenching look inside a town that is ruled by Hockey.
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A return to Beartown and more hockey was a welcome read. The storytelling is fantastic and hope more than the two books about this little Swedish town are in the pipeline.
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In Backman’s sequel, the town of Beartown has lost its dreams of greatness. The teen hockey team on which the town placed all its hopes, has lost its star after he was charged with rape. In the wake of most of the team’s defection to another town, people are filled with anger and turn that animosity on the family of the victim. Instead of compassion and support, the young girl and her family are confronted with hatred. 

Backman looks at the group mentality, the need to target their intense anger at someone. The town is polarized and is showing its ugly side. This small Swedish town is a microcosm for our world today. People are obsessed with a compulsion to blame – to seek retribution for perceived wrongs. Reason has no place and compassion is notably absent. Backman is an astute observer of society and his story pinpoints flaws that are entirely emblematic of our contemporary society. There are a few standouts (Benji, BoBo and Amat) who rise above the fray. They show some backbone, but not without consequences. These boys renew our faith in mankind and will move readers with their simple determination to do what’s right. They are the real heart of the book and their actions will move readers to tears.

This book tackles more than just mob mentality. It delves into sexist attitudes, homophobia, political backstabbing, thug behavior, bullying and betrayal. Peter Anderson and his daughter, the rape victim, are struggling to move forward along with the rest of their family. They are victims twice over.  But there are many others who are left victimized by the chaos that ensued after the town fell apart. Now it’s not just the confrontation of one town verses another town, but chaos within Beartown itself that exposes the tenuous fabric of the fractured community. 

Backman has finished his story of a broken town, a ruptured family and a small group of kids who stand tall. They aren’t perfect, but their actions demonstrate more courage than many of the town’s adults. That’s not to say that the adults are all one-dimensional. A number of secondary characters stand out as colorful additions to the town’s fabric. They are memorable for their belief in what’s right; they rise above the fray and stand tall when others bend. This is a story about resilience, courage, and the few who stay true to themselves. Even the perpetrators of hate are shown to have more humanity than a lesser author might have demonstrated. The two books in the Beartown series are outstanding examples of how literature can shed a magnifying glass on our world, demonstrating behaviors that are authentic and telling. Not only will readers feel the emotion of this stellar story, but they will see real life and real emotions laid bare, warts and all.
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I absolutely loved this book. Rarely does a sequel come close to being as amazing as the first book, but this one came pretty close. I loved being immersed in Beartown again.
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I absolutely loved this book. It took me a long time to submit this review, and I apologize to the publisher for not completing the review in a reasonable amount of time. There's just so much depth to the book and it's such a relevant story in the current political climate. I felt such an array of emotions while reading. I recommend it and will buy copies for a few friends I know will love it.
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Because I didn't read the first Beartown book it took me a long time to get into the story. The subject matter and the characters weren't that interesting to me and I struggled mightily to continue reading. But suddenly about 3/4 of the way through the book the author's focus seemed to shift, and the dry linear narrative suddenly blossomed into a beautifully written emotionally driven story.
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Thank you to Atria Books for providing me with a copy of Fredrik Backman's latest novel, Us Against You, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT- Fredrik Backman returns to his hockey obsessed Swedish town in Us Against You, the sequel to his 2017 novel, Beartown. Beartown is still experiencing the fallout of a scandal that pitted neighbor against neighbor: the rape of Maya, the daughter of the general manager of the Beartown Hockey Club, who accused the star player, Kevin, of attacking her. The town had divided loyalties, which only aided their biggest rival, the town of Hed, when some of the Beartown players defected to the enemy. 

Months have passed and it is summer. Kevin's family decided that it was best to leave town and although Maya will not longer have to see her rapist, she still feels hatred from those who supported him. Her father, Peter, is on the brink of having his hockey club shut down and is struggling to find a way to keep it going. He is approached by a business man with a proposition, yet the solution may come at the expense of the town residents.

LIKE- I love Fredrik Backman's novels. He creates characters that have a way of invading your soul; characters that are not only memorable, but ones who become part of your world. I was very eager to go back to Beartown. I have to qualify this though, Beartown is not a happy place. It's an economically depressed town in rural Sweden. Terrible and cruel things happen in Beartown. It is not a place that you'd want to visit on a vacation to Sweden! The characters are all rough around the edges and have a heavy distrust towards outsiders. They would not welcome you to Beartown. That said, they are also people who love fiercely and are protective towards their own. Beartown has a strong sense of community that is enviable. These are people who not only know their place in the world, but actively own it and are proud of it. 

Us Against You is even better than Beartown. I think it has to do with the story. Beartown is more straight-forward, where as Us Against You is all about the fall-out from the rape and people having to face how they initially reacted. It's complicated. People do not like to be confronted with their mistakes. Change is hard, change is complicated. Us Against You has a large cast of characters and each is written with complexity.

I feel that Backman's story is timely with regards to the current policy climate, both in America and around the world. It's not a political story per-se , but it is a story about human emotions and about working with different view points or more than that, the idea that people value things at different levels. It seems simple that people would agree that Kevin should be punished for raping Maya, but it's not simple. Beyond the idea that some people think Maya has lied, some characters feel that things like having a winning hockey team are more important than Maya's pain. It's not really the hockey though. For example, some of the parents of other kids on the team, kids that may not be as talented as Kevin, but who have worked hard for many years, will lose their opportunity to be on a winning team if Kevin isn't allowed to play. They don't see it as simple as a Kevin/Maya issue, now that their child is affected. Right or wrong, their value is on their own child, over Maya or Kevin. As in real life, Backman's characters are complicated because they value different things at different levels, which can lead to not only misunderstandings, but an "Us Against You" attitude. Communication is impossible when people build up their walls. 

I've been to a hockey game, but I can't claim to know much about the sport. Us Against You is a story about the people of the town, but it also has a lot about the game of hockey. It's a testament to Backman's writing skills that he can keep a non-hockey fan engaged in the parts of the story that involved the hockey games and practice. I felt energy in his writing that made me excited about the sport. 

DISLIKE- My only negative is occasional bouts of sluggish pacing. 

RECOMMEND- Yes! If you've not already read Beartown, read it first. Us Against You is a must read for Beartown and Backman fans!
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{Thank you to Atria Books for a free copy of Us Against You.} I wasn't ready to let this one go! I love Backman and I love Beartown. The story picks right up from where we last saw all our fave bears (Benji! Sune! Ramona!) and I felt like I had never left in the first place. It was a beautiful story with plenty of quotes to mark and new characters to fall more in love with. If you loved Beartown, you're safe with this one.
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While I did read though this book pretty fast, my overarching question was why? Beartown was just stunning and to me, unexpected. I don't think this sequel was needed. I feel like I don't learn anything new about the characters or the town, other than people are the worst (which i already got from the first one). Backman's writing is great, and although the style is a little off-putting (lots of foreshadowing and deliberately making things vague) it is a quick read.
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I really enjoyed Beartown and I wanted to like Us Against You so much! But it was so hard to read! I do not care one iota about hockey politics and this book was so chock full of it that I could barely read it. The real story disappeared and that made me sad. I was so bored by most of this book and so disappointed. When we finally got back to the real story, I devoured it. I cried. So much. But it was such a trial to get there!!
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Backman style and thought provoking narrative that sets his books apart, and follows the same characters while providing a broader look at Beartown's residents which I enjoyed. I wasn't particularly fond of the violence that took place.
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The residents of a small town must fight their egos and their loyalties to get past one of the biggest scandals in generations. As their local hockey team, the town’s only saving grace, prepares for the new season, people find new friends and disregard old ones as they decide individually and as a community where to draw the line between right and wrong. In his sequel to his previous novel, Beartown, author Fredrik Backman brings back beloved characters and continues a heart-wrenching story in the slow to start but excellent book Us Against You.

At one time every resident of Beartown held up his or her head in pride. Some considered the town a backwaters place on the verge of extinction, but no one could doubt the level of talent in the town’s junior league hockey team. The team had a shot at the national title, until its star player, Kevin, got arrested the night of the game that would decide the team’s fate. Accused of rape, Kevin and his family left town and everyone who stayed behind chose a side.

Peter Andersson, the coach who alerted the police to Kevin’s alleged crime, gets ousted by the board, leaving the team scrabbling for answers. Some players get recruited by the team for the nearby town of Hed, and the boys are happy to go. They idolized Kevin and don’t know what to think of the accusations against him. By going to Hed, at least they still get to play hockey. On the ice, life is blissfully simple.

No one can stay on the ice forever, however, and off it the players have to face their families and one another. Beartown still has plenty of boys who want to represent it. The departure of some key players means others get to move up in the ranks, and it also means a new coach has the opportunity to train the boys. With a new season comes key games between Hed and Beartown, and the rivalry rises to a new level. Players from both teams start playing “pranks” that escalate in their audacity. It isn’t until a resident ends up dead, however, that parents and players alike realize that what started out as a game has played with every element of their lives.

Author Fredrik Backman brings back all the characters from the heartbreaking Beartown and continues their story in Us Against You. Backman’s writing style and his depth of characterization, once again, hit the mark dead on. With every book he writes, Backman hones his art to a razor-sharp point that allows him to tickle his readers or prick their hearts—sometimes within the same paragraph. He balances the points of view of several characters, allowing readers to understand motivations and decide for themselves who’s right and who’s wrong.

The only distraction in the book comes in the pacing in the first third that could have moved a little faster. Perhaps, because this is his first sequel, Backman wanted to handle his readers with as much care as he does his characters and story. One thing is for certain: if a reader hasn’t found Beartown yet, he or she will know exactly what happened in that story because Backman gives it to readers in this latest book albeit in abbreviated form. While revisiting the previous book helped bring back characters and memories, from a mechanical standpoint it also takes up space that could have been devoted to more of the current story.

In his winning, charming style, however, Backman makes even the extensive back story engaging. He draws such a realistic picture that his target audience will want to spend as much time with the characters as possible. For those who wondered how Peter, his family, and their friends have fared since the end of Beartown, the extra time in Us Against You is precious and welcomed. 

Also, in the greatest tribute to his talent, Backman doesn’t let the back story detract from the new tale he wants to tell. It’s just as appealing and surprising as his other books. Readers new to Backman’s work who choose to start with Us Against You should just be patient. It won’t be long before they get caught up in the characters and the story.

For diehard fans of Backman’s work, this is a must-read. I recommend all readers Bookmark Us Against You.
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Beartown is a hockey town.  Unfortunately, the local hockey team has recently suffered several misfortunes.  Their star player had been accused of raping a girl and he was not allowed to play in the big game at the end of the season.  He has moved out of town.  The coach along with several other players have changed allegiance and have gone to the neighboring town of Hed to play on the rival team.  

All of these things cause the tension in and between the two towns to escalate.  And with that, the future of the Beartown team is precarious.  A new female coach comes to town to take over the team.  She begins work with the players including Amat, the fastest player on the team and with Benji, the strong loner. Finally, she brings Vidar the troublemaker back to town to join the team.  

All of the practices and hype are in preparation for the big game against the neighboring rival, the team from Hed.  As the day of the game approaches, pranks become vicious and things get out of hand.  Hockey challenges not only the teams but also the residents.  One begins to wonder if in the end it will be hockey that will ruin one or both of their towns.

In this sequel to the first Beartown book, Backman brings back many of the characters from his first book.  So, as a reader, I became more intimate with those characters and also learned to know bits and pieces of the new characters.  Each of them is dealing with some sort of personal struggle of which I became a part.  And, for sure,  there are lots of struggles with most of them leading to unhappy and depressing consequences.  But with a Backman book the reader must put emotions aside and prevail along with the characters because the book is about both the best and the worst in people. 

It is about bullying, sexism and sexual identity, family, teams, politics, loyalty, hate, and even hockey.  Backman writes about real life and he doesn’t “sugar coat” the events or the characters.  His writing style is unique.  He not only narrates the events in the book but he gives a little bit of philosophy to accompany the incidents about which he is writing making his insights give meaning to the events.  I am looking forward to the reading the final book in this series to see where Backman takes Beartown and its hockey team and its residents. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book.
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Earlier this month, Simon & Schuster's Atria imprint released US AGAINST YOU by Fredrik Backman; it is the sequel to Beartown, a book which has generated some lengthy discussions at our high school. The stories in both novels take place at a small town where hockey championships are truly a focus and "kids get raised with the philosophy 'the stats never lie.' Either you're the best, or you're everyone else." As the new novel opens, reverberations from a sexual assault by one of the key players are still being felt and there is talk of disbanding the team. "The idiots won't say it was Kevin who killed Beartown Ice Hockey, they'll say 'the scandal' killed the club. ... their real problem isn't that Kevin raped someone, but that Maya got raped. ... Women are always the problem in the men's world."

The story is classic Backman (he also wrote A Man Called Ove and others), with much empathy for those with less power and with anger against the bureaucracy: "it is divided in the way that all worlds are divided between people: between those who are listened to, and those you aren't" OR "sports are only sports until someone who doesn't give a damn about sports has something to gain from them, then sports suddenly become economics." Once again, Backman gives readers much to discuss in US AGAINST YOU which received a starred review from Library Journal.
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This book is the sequel to Fredrik Backman's best seller "Beartown." For maximum comprehension and pleasure, the books should be read in order. 


Beartown is a cloistered village in the Swedish forest, where hockey is the local obsession. In the first book, Beartown's junior hockey team is on the cusp of winning a national championship when an allegation of rape scandalizes the town and rips the hockey team apart. People take sides, there's a great deal of victim-blaming, and some former friends become bitter enemies. Everyone in Beartown is anguished after the incident, partly because they lament the disruption to hockey, and partly because they have empathy for either the perpetrator or the victim. 

The second book, "Us Against You", picks up where the first book left off. Beartown's junior hockey team is in tatters, and most of its members are now playing for the rival town of Hed. The Beartown 'Bears' 🐻 and the Hed 'Bulls' 🐮 have always been bitter rivals, so this change in loyalties causes much strife. Moreover, many people blame the girl who was raped for the unhappy situation and frequently text her slurs like "Whore, Liar, Princess." 😫

Angry fans want the rape victim's family to leave town, and start a campaign of harassment - getting moving companies to call the house and deliver packing boxes to the front door. It seems like very few people, except for the victim's family and her best friend, understand (or care) that the girl was severely traumatized by the assault. Her younger brother, however, is furious and rebellious - always on the brink of starting a fight or a conflagration (literally).

To make matters worse, Beartown's city council has decided to withdraw financial support for hockey. The league's General Manager, Peter Andersson - who's devoted his life to the sport - doesn't know what to do. The remainder of the townsfolk also start to despair. The 'five old men' - who used to spend every day in the Bearskin Pub arguing about hockey - are emblematic of the town's misery. The elderly codgers now stay home, sad and talking to no one. 

Enter the town's savior, self-serving politician Richard Theo. Theo - whose every waking moment is spent scheming to gain power - has a plan to save Beartown hockey. The program involves getting foreign investors to salvage the town's failing factory AND sponsor the hockey league. Theo constantly lies and manipulates people to get what he wants, but he does manage to keep the hockey league in business. 

A female hockey coach named Elisabeth Zackell is hired, which is a shock to the men in town. Nevertheless, Zackell is a talented woman, and she assembles a team around several popular players who didn't defect to Hed: Amat - who's fast; Bobo - who's big; and Benji - who's tough. Zackell also wants teenager Vidar Rinnius -brother of Beartown hooligan Teemu Rinnius - to be the goalie. The problem is that Vidar, who has severe anger management problems, is in juvie jail. Against all odds, Vidar gets sprung - courtesy of Richard Theo - just so he can join the Bears. 

The Bears and the Bulls have some very contentious encounters, both on and off the rink. The result is that several people get beat up; a building burns down; and there's a deadly car accident. Also on the downside, an unhappy girl 'outs' a gay hockey player - which has terrible consequences for the young man. Hateful townsfolk send the boy cutting texts, like "Fag, Queer, Homo, and Poof".....and rival fans shout, "Fags. Whores. Rapists" at hockey games. 

The hockey situation also adversely affects the marriage of General Manager Peter Andersson and his lawyer wife Kira. For twenty years, Kira has put her ambitions on hold for Peter's career, and even now - when Peter's job is shaky - he once again asks his wife to 'wait until next year' to follow her dreams. (I was irritated with Peter, who's obtuse and selfish.)

The situation plays out as it will and some lessons are learned. 

One of my favorite characters is little 4 ½ -year-old Alicia, who practices hockey all day long and regularly runs away from preschool to practice her shots. This girl is a determined cutie. 🌺

Like the first book, this story demonstrates the cruel tendency to 'blame the victim.' Backman also exposes hypocrites who 'have nothing against homosexuals' but 'worry about the children.' These phonies also have a habit of pointing out that 'not everyone is as open-minded as they are.' Yeah right!! 😕👎

"Us Against You" has garnered very high praise from many readers but for me, it's just okay. I find it hard to believe that hockey is SO important to Beartown and Hed that almost every waking thought and action revolves around the game. In addition, the author does a lot of philosophizing, using hockey as a metaphor for life, and I found this to be overdone. 

Still, people who enjoyed the first book will probably like this one, and I'd recommend it to those readers. 

Thanks to Netgalley, the author (Fredrik Backman), and the publisher (Atria Books) for a copy of the book.
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I struggled in the beginning because it seemed to be rehash of Beartown, and then suddenly I was completely caught up and read the second half in an afternoon.  What a brilliant story of complex emotions, conflict, bullying and loyalties.  I stuck with it initially because I was frustrated by Maya’s abandonment by everyone including her parents.  As the mother of a date-rape victim daughter I couldn’t imagine my daughter being left alone like that and then being blamed for getting raped.  It seemed to me that everyone had gotten lost in the contest and winning the game meant more than people.

This is my fifth book by Bachman and I think it’s probably his best.  I was angry at the parents and the way their children and teens were left to violently sort things out.  I don’t know what it’s like to live with such long dark days and I wondered how this story could have played out in Anaheim or Las Vegas. Politicians and business played everyone against each other, using the hot emotions of two local towns and teams fighting to win the high stakes of economic security.  I wondered if there would ever be that “triumph of the human spirit” moment and while it’s not a happy-ever-after ending, it’s a good and realistic one.
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