Beartown | Book Review

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By Alia Khan

Hello Readers! This week I finished reading Beartown by Fredrik Backman and I don’t even know how to begin describing how much I liked this book. It’s definitely one of my favourite reads of this year. I 100% spent the last quarter of the book crying because this book just kept hitting me in RIGHT in the feels. So, here’s the story:

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People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected. (from Goodreads)

One of my favourite things about this book is the ensemble cast. We really get to know the citizens of Beartown, their culture and their community because we see it through the eyes of several different people. This book is like experiencing a spectrum of human emotions through detailed, relatable characters. There are the hockey players, the parents and teachers, the best friend and of course, the girl in question. This is a character driven story and with every single person in this story I would think to myself, “What will they do next?”

Let me start with a spoiler warning: this book is about the before and after of the rape of a young girl and how it affects not just her but her community. It’s depiction of rape and rape culture felt very realistic to me and this book took no shortcuts. It didn’t shy away from reality. That when something traumatic happens, so many of us choose to stay silent. That staying quiet, so often helps the perpetrator and not the victim.  That speaking up takes courage. That we can make villains out of anyone, even the victims. That our words and our actions, can affect the words and actions of others.

There are many messages in Beartown and each one is as powerful as the next.

“She’s fifteen, above the age of consent, and he’s seventeen, but he’s still “the boy” in every conversation. She’s “the young woman”.

Words are not small things.”

The magic of this book would not have been able to come to life without the wonderful writing of it’s author. There’s just something so human about the way he writes his characters, they’re could be someone you know. I think that might have been the point. Victim, bystander or perpetrator – they are usually someone we know. Nobody is a stranger, especially in this day and age.

There is a sequel to this novel that I’m definitely going to check out ASAP. It’s called Us Against You which is it’s own story in and of itself. I won’t go into what it’s about here just because there might be spoilers. But 10/10 PLEAAAASE read Beartown, I literally can’t recommend it enough.

The only thing that might be a setback for some people is that the books pacing can be a bit slow. Personally, it made everything a little bit more suspenseful for me and it really added to the experience. However, I can totally see it being a drawback for some people because there were some parts of the book where all I was thinking was, “Just tell me what happens!!” but personally, it was just another reason to keep reading!

You can check out Beartown here.

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