It’s 8.37 am. I’ve just spent the last ten hours reading this book, all throughout the damn night.
PLOT: So this book is the aftermath of what the town goes through after the perpetrator of the sexual assault in Book 1 does not get charged. The hockey team splits into two. And in their fight against each other, the townspeople also go against each other. People get hurt.
Review for book 1: Beartown
But I’m just going to own up to this, I spent every freaking chapter wondering is Benji going to die. Because that was set up in the first book. Benji wasn’t going to be alive in ten years time. AND THE GAWDDAMN NUMBER OF TIMES FREDRIK BACKMAN HAS PUT BENJI IN HARMS WAY IN THIS BOOK 2 HAS SUCKED ALL THE ENERGY OUT OF ME.
If you didn’t like book 1, you won’t like book 2. If you thought book one was a downer, hohohoho, this book is some other level of downer. The only reason I managed to get through it was because of some of the characters that I really wanted to see through. Benji, Amat, Bobo, Maya, Ana, Leo, there’s enough of all of them to get through the mundane parts in this book and ohmy are there some mundane parts. In this book we have a lot more politics. Actual politicians trying to use hockey to sway people’s votes. Such elaborate scheming and you watch the characters fall for it.
The strength of this book is also it’s weakness. The fact that everyone is connected. You understand the connections, you understand where each person stands, which is amazing given how many sides there are. I never once confused anyone’s motivations with someone else’s. But it’s also the fact that everyone’s so intricately connected is what is making this book so damn heavy. Because every move one person makes affects someone else in dire ways and so on and so forth. The impact of your actions is on too many people and you feel the effects of your actions very quickly. There is no time to recuperate while reading this book. You are attached to all the characters since we have walked at least a short distance in everybody’s shoes. You feel everyone. I understand that’s what the book is trying to say as well; your action affects others. But it gets really tiring because every action is a big action. There are no small actions. The choices our characters have to choose from are all heavily weighted choices that affects a lot of people. And it’s very tiring to constantly be bogged down. And it’s very tiring especially when you know shit is going to go down and you’re just there worrying, panicking, nail-biting how the fcuk everything is going to go down and who’s actually going to go down. (But it must be mentioned: I believe this is the intended effect for the reader.)
There’s not a character in this book I love, not even Benji. I just feel a lot of pity. Everyone is forced to grow up so soon when everyone is just a kid. Everyone has to make hard decisions. Why do kids have to learn hate?
But the writing is superb of course. The circular writing. The parallel characters. But I can’t go deep into them at the moment cause I’m tired. Am I tired from a lack of sleep or from just being emotionally drained by this book? It’s both. But the writing is stunning as always.
The small laughs, here and there, are really what got me through this book. Compared to this one, Beartown had more laughs actually. Us Against You is really just gut-wrenching. At some point I was like why does it have to be this sad? Book 1 has a lot more hope than this book. This truly read like a town had given up and there was nothing good going to come out of it. The characters that had their shit together in the first book lose their shit in this book while the people who lost their shit in the first book, well we don’t have much of their characters represented in this book. Because those who lost their shit were basically the perpetrator’s family and William Lyt. William Lyt is still losing his shit in the second book until…. But yes, this book is a complete downer. Some positives happen after page 370++ HAHAHA. YES. YOU HAVE TO WAIT THAT LONG. Is the wait worth it? Yes. If you read through the struggles, stay around for the release, I won’t say victory because there are no winners. Life goes on. Everyday is a new struggle. But remember you still have like forty pages of the book left and Fredrik Backman will take it all away from you again. And you know what you will do?
You will bounce back. Because you’re a survivor.
There is only one actual issue I have with the book. Ana ousting Benji. Ana is a lot of things but no matter how hurt she is, I don’t think she’s the kind of person that would do what she did, no matter how hurt she was and no matter how much hurt she would have wanted to inflict because she knows the power of the internet. She must have known her action would completely destroy Benji and she still did it. The only way Ana’s action to oust Benji makes sense (to me) is if she is against homosexuality. But that is never explored in this book. And it doesn’t feel like Ana is prejudiced because when she plucks up the courage to apologise to Benji, she apologises for posting the photo of him kissing a guy online not for any biases she holds. And if she doesn’t hold any bias and she knows how much her action will wreck Benji… I mean… I can’t say it’s impossible, what she did, you never know what pain makes people do. But still. Anyone could have ousted Benji, the fact that it had to be Ana is obviously for stylistic reasons, for the circular writing, for parallel characters, for Maya to grow. But I don’t think it should have been Ana. And this goes back to the issue of having all your characters being connected. If it was some random guy who ousts Benji. It’s very easy to hate him. Since it’s Ana, it’s harder to hate. And the reader suffers this book and book 1 unable to hate anyone and just feeling a massive amount of pity. But the story makes it really terrible for the characters as well. They don’t have easy choices, but they’re ALL ALWAYS thrown into predicaments where their perspectives, ALL THEIR PERSPECTIVES makes it seem like the lousier option is to them their only option. So you can’t help but feel weary. Not a single one other than Amat makes a better decision. But Amat’s role in this story is not as much compared to book 1. All of them are in pain and suffering and angry and at the crucial moments not one person is doing anything about it. Everyone watches everyone else’s emotions manifest into violence. At the end of the day, it feels like love, family, parenting, coaching, caring are all impossible tasks without someone having to suffer too much.
At some point, yes I understand why you do the things you do but you’re an asshole and you could have chosen not to be an asshole. It’s like the author says: everyone is afraid of admitting they’re wrong. But no one is actively saying someone is wrong either. Everyone just understands the reasons behind someone’s actions and lets it be and that’s fcuking tiring. I do like assholes with a principle. But in this book everyone at some point kind of reads like an asshole with an excuse. Every one has a sob story if you look hard enough, not everyone turns out to be an asshole. Amat is the only character that seems to have understood this (at the end there are some saving graces when some characters start taking control of their lives).
All in all, this book was really a ride. A very uncertain, unsafe, at worst scary and at best survivable ride. Yea. You just survive. And then if you survive long enough, maybe you might get to change your ride.
I won’t re-read this book anytime soon cause this book has wrecked me emotionally, mentally and physically. These characters will stay with me. Benji, William, Amat, Bobo, Maya, Leo, Kira, Peter, David, Ramona, Benji’s sisters. Because at the end of the day, they’re all good people at the wrong place.
It’s 9.37 am. Read it if you want to be wrecked because this book will wreck you.
Oh and spoiler: apparently Benji dies, just not in this book, not yet. And I cannot and will not forgive that aspect of this story.
Update after two hours of sleep.
Ultimately, this book was too tragic for me mainly because Benji doesn’t make it ten years later (that’s what the narrator says). If he dies, it’s not unrealistic, the man is a good guy, but he’s spent his whole life on his own despite being surrounded by people, he has some issues, he’s too unafraid of putting himself in harms way. It’s not unrealistic if he dies, it’s just unfair. Somehow there’s no payoff in this series. Because for the most part, we only watch our characters struggling. At the end Maya does leave the town and so does Benji. We do know Maya will end up successful ten years later but still live with the crime that happened to her. We do know Amat and Zacharius play professionally. We know Bobo is a good dad. But this book are not those stories. This book is just the darkness in the tunnel with a light at the end which just keeps getting further and further. And whatever happens ten years from this book, doesn’t show they’ve reached the light either. Fredrik Backman’s writing is crazy because I went to sleep thinking about the story, I woke up thinking about the story, just feeling down. He made me care for far too many people who stand on opposing sides without any prejudice.
Grief is the price we pay for love.
And I just fell in love with too many flawed characters who are not the kind of people who get happy endings.
Its 10th July. I still haven’t recuperated. But. Who on earth did this?!?!?!
I must have read the book wrong. *sad laughs*