Fredrik Bachman is one of the best writers I’ve had the pleasures of encountering; he excels at pushing the knife into your gut and twisting it just enough that you’re still willing to come back for more. Beartown was a hauntingly beautiful novel and Us Against You is a near-perfect follow up.
Spoilers ahead for Beartown~
Us Against You picks up shortly after the events of its predecessor. Kevin’s parents have divorced and his mother has taken him away from Beartown; while the removal of a rapist from the community (and the narration) should be a relief it is anything but. Maya is still being attacked for her role in the rape, namely being a victim and telling her story, and all the best players from Beartown hockey have moved to Hed hockey under the (false) assumption Kevin would be leading the team. There is a deep divide between the towns that is exploited by a local politician named Richard Theo. Similar to Beartown, where the narrator eludes to the rape long before the crime occurs, there is a constant reminder that the events of Us Against You will culminate in a fatal car accident.
“Have you ever seen a town fall? Ours did. We’ll end up saying that violence came to Beartown this summer, but that will be a lie; the violence was already here. Because sometimes hating one another is so easy that it seems incomprehensible that we ever do anything else.”
Richard Theo pulls some strings to ensure that Beartown hockey can continue even though all the sponsors left for Hed when Kevin left; Theo has his own agenda but it hinges on Beartown keeping its hockey club. Peter, whose job was spared when The Pack voted to keep him as General Manager, hires a female coach who promises Peter a win against Hed if he can promise her Benji, Amit, Bobo and incarcerated goalie Vidar, will play on the A team. One of the best parts of this sequel is the exploration into the mysterious Pack and their unwavering loyalty to Beartown as a hockey team and a town. Benji, my favorite character from Beartown, continues his beautifully haunted story line as a violent, closeted hockey player from an insular town. I spent most of the novel with my heart in my throat worried for the safety of this fictional teenager.
I cannot say enough good things about this novel, or its predecessor, or its author. I encourage you to grab a bottle of wine and a box of tissues before cracking this one open.