Us Against You by Fredrik Backman
Sometimes the easy becomes hard and then harder still until you forget anything was ever easy. Something so simple as a sport, a game. Everyone gets a stick, two nets, two teams, us against you.
For Beartown and neighboring just on the other side of the forest Hed, hockey is more than a game or a sport. It’s the heartbeat you can hear pulsing through each person. Summers are short, winters start in September and so does hockey. From the looks of it, there are no toys in Beartown or Hed that aren’t hockey sticks or pucks or skates.
So, when the heart of the community is threatened to be cut out, when there is a rumor that Beartown will lose its hockey club, this is a big deal. Especially after the year they just had (read Beartown, the book previous to this one) when sides were taken, lives were ruined, teams dissolved, loyalties tested beyond their limits and a person found out what kind of person they really were. To find now things could get even worse was almost more than could be tolerated.
It all comes down to the game between Beartown and Hed. Between the ones who left and the ones who stayed. It would be the game that determined the fate of the hockey club in Beartown. The pressure is on Amat, the fastest skater anyone has ever seen, Benji, whose secret could tear the team apart and almost does tear the town apart, Bobo, who has responsibilities off the ice but not the skills on the ice and Vidar, who brings with him a whole cadre of trouble. Ana and Maya are best friends who must hold each other up because they both carry loads that would make anyone fall. And before everything implodes, before Beartown and Hed destroy each other, there is a death.
This sounds so ominous and serious and heavy and totally hockey, but really, Us Against You is, and as I said of Beartown before it, about loyalty, deep, multi-layered, intense, timely. In author Backman’s hands, Beartown is us. Us Against You is us. Though you don’t have to, if you haven’t read Beartown, read it before you read Us Against You. It will be good to know who everyone is and why.
I used to say about author Backman that he gets old people, he was inside their heads perfectly. But with Beartown and Us Against You, I’ve come to understand Backman gets inside the heads of all of us. He is inside and is showing us to ourselves. Now I can say Backman gets the tightness of the small town mentality where loyalties become frenzy. This is a study of small town politics, friendships, colorful characters, pain and joys. And no one does it better than Fredrik Backman. No one.