Title: Us Against You
Author: Fredrik Backman
Publisher: Penguin UK – out June 14th 2018
Summary: from Goodreads
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.
I absolutely loved The Scandal (published as Beartown in the US) so I was unbelievably excited to learn their was going to be a sequel and even more excited to be approved to read the sequel early. Although it has been months since I read The Scandal, I fell straight back into the lives of the people of Beartown and the world they live in. Because I really felt like I already knew these characters so well it felt so easy and comfortable to jump back into their story and I was dying to know how things had developed and what state the characters were in.
The plot pretty much covers the ramifications and complications caused by the events of the first book which I found fascinating. As readers, we often don’t get to see how the characters deal with the events of a book because the story usually ends quite soon after something hugely eventful happens. It was interesting to see how some of the characters in this book have moved on and how some of them have become stuck in a cycle of despair and darkness. These characters have to cope with new challenges and problems as well and, as with all his work, Backman just knows exactly how to punch a reader in the gut with heartbreaking or heartwarming moments so full of emotion and depth. The story of Us Against You has so many facets and I don’t want to give anything away about the plot but I was genuinely holding my breath at times because I was completely immersed in this world and I cared so much about the future’s of these characters. This book really shows the darkness and hate in the world that can feel so overwhelming and honestly depressing, but it also shows that these people filled with hate are not the majority, there are far more people who have goodness within them. The importance of friendship, loyalty and forgiveness cannot be understated and are so apparent in Us Against You.
What I find so special about both Us Against You and it’s predecessor is that they are both one hundred percent focussed on Ice Hockey, which I have zero interest in, and yet I was obsessed with it whilst reading these books because the sport was the vessel for Backman to explore the way people feel and think and how they grow. I think a lot of this book is about choices. It reminded me of something Dumbledore says in the Harry Potter series about choosing between what is right and what is easy when darkness lies ahead. That sentiment felt so true to me whilst reading Us Against You, it really made clear that no one is wholly good or bad and that everybody is flawed and yet that is what makes people human and also capable of growth. Parts of this book just destroyed me to be honest, but Backman always manages to still leave the reader with hope after reading his novels.
I really have nothing bad to say about Us Against You, it gave closure on these characters and this town and I loved every second of reading it. If you loved The Scandal then I think this follow up will definitely not disappoint, it develops the fascinating relationships from the first book further and also brings in new characters with interesting histories who affect the people of Beartown in many different ways. Us Against You is an emotional and satisfying journey and if Backman chooses to write any more about Beartown then I will absolutely be reading it!
Us Against You is out June 14th
I received this e-arc from Netgalley in exchange for a completely honest review.