Book Review: Beartown

Title: Beartown
Author: Fredrik Backman
Date Published: September 15, 2016
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Date read: March 29, 2020

Beartown takes place in a small town, whose community is extremely passionate about hockey. Its inhabitants rest its future on its junior hockey team in hopes that the team’s success will garner more business for the town. After an act of violence is committed by one of the hockey team members, the community is left divided and the fate of the town is in jeopardy. 

Third time’s the charm, right? I’ve actually tried and failed to read Beartown twice now, and couldn’t get into it the first two times because the first half of the novel was too slow paced for me. I’m not alone in this opinion as I’ve heard that Backman often has a slow start to his novels, so if this is a book that interests you I’d say it’s worth it to push through to the second half. What ultimately got me into the novel was the decision to pick it up as an audiobook. I became invested in the story right away and Marin Ireland is a fantastic narrator, and if you are able I’d highly recommend giving the audiobook a try.

Backman’s writing style, while I can appreciate its quality, isn’t really my tastes. He has a very repetitive type of writing style I’m legitimately interested to know how many times the word “bang” is used in the novel and while it was very effective in getting certain messages across and conveying a certain atmosphere, it did get annoying at times. Still, I think this is a style that will work for most people, and I didn’t dislike it enough that it really affected my enjoyment in any way. 

I think where this novel really shines is with its characters. Beartownhas a lot of characters, but they’re distinct enough, and introduced slowly enough that it is not a challenge to keep track of them. Many of the characters we follow are young men who face a lot of difficult choices and a lot of social pressures. I rooted strongly for most of them and kept hoping they’d make morally just choices, but also understood the difficulties they faced in doing so. The bonds between characters was especially strong and well explored, whether they broke or became stronger, be it friendships, or parent-child relationships, or mentor-student relationships. Backman has created such a multifaceted story and this is best exemplified through his characters. I know he’s an author I’ll keep returning to because I don’t remember the last time I latched onto characters so strongly, and I know I’ll keep thinking about them long after I’ve finished the series.

Content warning explicit rape, violence, homophobia, sexism.

Have you read Beartown? If so what did you think? If not, are you planning to?
Happy reading! 💗