I think this one may just make it onto my year end list of best books!
In the small forest town of Beartown, hockey is king. This rural Swedish town lives and breaths the sport; adults and kids alike. With a formidable team lead by a truly remarkable star, Kevin, the town thinks it may actually have a shot at winning the finals and putting themselves on the map nationally. With a national win, the sponsorship’s would roll in, breathing new life into Beartown, a truly life changing dream. After an incredible win in the semi-finals, a celebratory party gets out of hand leaving one teen girl the victim of a horrible crime, and the alleged perpetrator is none other than the towns hero, Kevin. Lines are drawn and sides are taken as the town battles within itself. Some will go to any lengths to protect their star, the team, and by extension, the towns promise of growth and success.
You guys, please, READ. THIS. BOOK.
This was a heavy read and I for sure am having to move on to some more light hearted fantasy or something after this because my god. Backman does a phenomenal job of really setting up the plot in this novel. The entire first half is character development and set up; which may sound like too much but trust me, Backman keeps it engaging. The reader gets a real grasp on the various characters (there are quite a few), fleshing them out in such a way as to where you can see out of their lens as they each learn of “the incident” (it’s honestly not really a huge shocker and is foreshadowed numerous times so I’ll just say it, SPOILER, the young girl was raped) and their subsequent reactions. The town as a whole, its past, history, and culture which is so entrenched in the hockey lifestyle, gives the reader such an in depth look at how a sexual assault by the towns hero could be handled in the way it eventually was. So many relevant themes were woven into this story, victim shamming, rape culture, toxic masculinity, all very eloquently portrayed and executed.
This story could be one of millions of girls/women’s stories. In fact, at the time that I was reading this book, the Kavanaugh hearing was taking place. I could not (still can not) open up my Facebook, Twitter, online news articles without running into a wall of commentary so eerily similar to the arguments in the book. “Why did she wait so long to report it?” “She was drinking, and went with him upstairs, what did she think would happen?” “She’s just confused”. It was angering and disheartening but so relevant and timely.
Fantastic read that I cannot recommend enough. I plan on reading the companion novel, Us Against You (after I read a few fantasy books- I need a break after such a heavy read in-conjunction with an also heavy news cycle).
Heatwrentching and deep, this is a must read for all.