By Nora K.

Editor’s Note: Readers be advised of the following content warnings: Talk and recount of sexual assault, talk and recount of suicide, underage drinking, and violence.

No spoilers! This book contains:

  • Benji a.k.a. the love of my life
  • An unhealthy obsession with hockey
  • Beautiful prose 
  • Flawed and complex characters that you will form strong and emotional attachments to

Us Against You is the sequel to Fredrik Backman’s 2017 novel Beartown. This is something I am just now finding out after reading the book. How does one read a sequel to a book without reading the first book, you may ask? I would hypothetically answer that the book was so damn good that I didn’t even know I was missing out on the greater backstory of it. Truth be told, Us Against You is a book for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’ve read the first book, aren’t into sports (even hockey), or maybe on a broader scale don’t know who you are and how you fit into your community yet. Backman’s writing goes above and beyond the basics of hockey and into a lyrical interpretation of life and humankind. His writing in Us Against You both disturbed me with the harsh realities and uncomfortable questions the book illustrates and also delighted me as I reveled in the triumphs and stories of the people of Beartown. It’s one of those books that I’m coming away from reading with a new perspective on life, people, and myself. 

“Everyone is a hundred different things, but in other people’s eyes we usually get the chance to be only one of them.”

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

This quote seems to be applicable both in the lives of the inhabitants of Beartown and in today’s society. It also made me question who I am in other people’s eyes. A kind friend? A funny daughter? An intelligent peer? How is it that everyone is so complex and yet, we are able to so easily reduce them to a simplified version of themselves? 

I read once that most people can only be close friends with 15 people at once. That just about blew my mind. Out of all the people we meet in the world and interact with daily, only 15 of them we can ever call a close friend at one period of time. On the deepest level, discounting a romantic partner, we get 5 people that are our true best friends or family members that we trust to drop everything and be a shoulder to cry on. Though you may only have the capability to be deeply intimate with 5 people and close with 15 people, our lives affect infinitely more people than just that. 

In Beartown, just as in life, there are layers upon layers of this friendship and intimacy known as Dunbar’s number. For Maya this proves true with her closest circle: Ana, Benji, her brother, her mom, and her dad. For Benji this also proves true with his circle being his three sisters, Ramona, and Maya. For Teemu this is Vidar, Spider, Woody, Ramona, and his mom. This theme continues as you come to find that all the characters follow this trend. 

These simple little details like Dunbar’s number that Backman likely unconsciously added in, made the book feel like a natural read. It also made it so much more meaningful when the characters supported each other in that unconditional manner we usually reserve for our top five, or closest 15 people. The Beartown residents united around hockey and formed a team in the rink, in the stands, and in their town.  

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Get your copy of Us Against You by Fredrik Backman here!