About My Book Reviews

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Series: Beartown (Book 1)

Title: Beartown

Author: Fredrik Backman

Published: 2017

Genre: Contemporary

Grade Level: Adult

-Trigger Warning: Sexual violence, suicidal thoughts, and hazing

-Movie Rating: PG-13 for sexual violence, vulgar language, and underage drinking



Narrated by: Marin Ireland

Length: 13hrs 11min

Recommend: No, because even though the narrator did a fantastic job, the pacing of the novel is so fast it probably would have been easier to follow on paper.


Blurb (from goodreads):

A tiny community nestled deep in the forest 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.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain.

My Scores:

Writing Style: Top Notch

This novel was written with a very different style, both from Backman’s other works like A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She’s Sorry and from most novels in general.

It’s different first by how the characters are developed in what feels like tiny snippets. This is one of the reasons why I don’t recommend the audiobook. The author switches so often between characters, settings, and timelines that they can start to blend together if you’re not paying really close attention. I’m not ashamed to admit that I made myself a character sheet just to keep everyone straight.

And since each character is given the same amount of attention, it’s actually kind of hard to tell who the main characters are. I think the author did this on purpose because he wanted to make the town (Beartown) the main character.

Second, it’s different by how easily the author switches from present tense to future tense to show powerful but predictable moments.

Third, it’s different in the way Backman creates moments where well-developed characters become nameless for a scene or two to make them feel universal, more like a symbol than people.


Characters: Absolutely Amazing

It’s amazing to me the way Backman can create such a variety of complex and convincing characters of different genders, economic status, and sexuality. No joke, it reminded me of the way Tolstoy wrote Anna Karenina because of how accurately these authors captured the mindset of several women and men of different backgrounds.

There are SO many characters in this novel, but they are all wonderfully complex, surprisingly powerful, and force readers to face the harsh realities of society. Through this literary fiction, Backman is holding up a mirror to sports culture, showing us hard truths similar to the all too real documentary Audrie and Daisy.

These characters are an accurate reflection of sports culture, the pressures, the friendships, the hazing, the vital mentorships, and the brutal reality of its economic importance. It’s a LOT to unpack.


Plot: So Many Plot Twists

It's a very quick paced novel. It moves from character to character, message to message, with a driven focus to present as many viewpoints as possible.

Keeping up with it all starts to make you feel like a pressure cooker about to explode, which I believe is done on purpose by the author to show the true complexity of this particular societal critique.


Overall: Totally Obsessed

I am totally obsessed with this novel!

This is one of the few books you could read several times over and grow to love it more with each read. It’s a powerful narrative that brings an important discussion to the table. 

It’s fast paced, full of well-crafted characters, and impossible to put down. Even if you care nothing about sports, it is well worth your time to read.

I will warn you that at moments it’s very intense and hard to digest, but I commend the author for his bravery in tackling topics of hazing, sexism, mob mentality, and sexual violence head on.




Holds up a mirror to sports culture, the good, the bad, and the ugly.


Goodreads Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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