Sunday, April 1, 2018

Us Against You - by Fredrik Backman: Book Review

No. pages: 448
Publishing Date: 5.06.2018
Format: Kindle

Unlike Beartown, in Us Against You there are more tears and people are more emotional. At the same time, people are crueler and the atmosphere is more charged. The novel felt heavy and I kept wondering if it could get any worse. It could and it did. The turn the events took made me gasp quite a number of times, it made me stop and reread, but it definitely made me turn one more page.

It was interesting to see how some of the characters I met in Beartown evolved. A few new ones are introduced, and one character in particular is so bad, it adds to the gut-wrenching feeling. To do this, however, he uses a politician, and for this political aspect I did not care too mcuh. In the end, it didn't influence the novel very much, except make it longer and winding. Some characters were introduced too late to fully get to know and like/dislike them, and some characters were just plain extra (see: Teemu and Vidar). I did like how he created tension by presenting the two teams, the Beartown hockey team (the greens) and the Hed hockey team (the reds) as enemies; you see the lows and the highs of the human nature as a result. I also liked how he presented the obvious "bad" characters from different perspectives to see how easy it is to judge, and they aren't as bad as you're tempted to think.

Unlike Beartown, Us Against You seemed at times unlikely. Not every action the characters engaged in had authenticity, and I am sure people don't usually speak like that, but in the cold Beartown people are so different that you let this slide. Speaking of the town, it's so unlike any city or town I have read about. Even compared with Hed, the other town in the novel, it seems very different and out of place.

The shorter chapters are so full with emotion (and I don't like this cheesy word, nor cheesy emotions) and dripping with feeling, that you can't close this book untouched. Of course, you have to give the writing style some time. I see how Fredrik Backman's writing may not appeal to every reader, but once you see how he uses language smoothly and apparently effortlessly to draw you in, you can't help but applaud him. There are moments when you expect the plot to go in a certain way, but he shifts it and it takes a different direction. 

I must say, though, I am not sure I want there to be a #3. (Although of course I will read it!) The story dragged a little bit in this novel, and if I think about it, not much was actually going on. There isn't really a happy ending, but better times for some of the characters are hinted at. Maybe Beartown is made to be tough, but without being a winner and champion. I am afraid that another book in the series will be just a commercial one, without the depth Beartown had. Comparing Beartown and Us Against You, the first one is much better. It was good to see how the characters recovered from/dealt with what happened in the first book, but we don't need to see them more than we already did, despite the unfinished feel the second book has. Also, the moments where the author has to make a paranthesis to help everyone catch up with the characters and events in the first book are annoying. 

For fans of Fredrik Backman, yes, you must read this. It does add a new layer to the story, albeit not a crucial one. I hope this is it with Beartown; we know the people and the town, but farewell. I like the author's writing better in stand alone novels. Harsh? Maybe, but I like to think I'm a picky reader.


I received an e-book copy of the novel from Ariele Fredman, Assistant Director of Publicity at Atria Books | Simon & Schuster. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

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