This guide to the Beartown books explores the New York Times bestselling series by Fredrik Backman, so you can learn more about the order of the books in this trilogy, read quick summaries of each novel, get quick answers to frequently asked questions about the book series, and even download a printable PDF checklist of all Fredrik Backman’s books.
@theliterarylifestyle Winter is prime time for the Beartown aesthetic – one of my favorite books by Fredrick Blackman. #beartown #beartownbook #fredrikbackman #bookaesthetic #bookaesthetics ♬ In The Forest (Acoustic Indie No Copyright) – Instrumental – Lesfm & Olexy
Beartown is my top pick from Fredrik Backman’s catalog of books, all of which I have read, and the Beartown books are extremely popular with readers of The Literary Lifestyle as well, so I wanted to give you more information about each of the three beloved books in the series, whether for your own personal use, educational use, or even for a book club.
While it’s DEFINITELY for fans of Friday Night Lights (it’s basically the hockey version of the tv show), I think it’s also for fans of tv shows like Parenthood and This is Us, as well as books that delve into the interactions amongst a group of people or a family, like John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.
At its core, Beartown centers around the dramatic interactions among members of a Swedish hockey town obsessed with winning and their reactions to an act of violence against a teenage girl that connects them.
Through this setting and these characters, the Beartown books shine a bright spotlight on the elements of the human condition, and good versus evil, with depth you will savor and won’t forget. The Beartown series is what I like to call a “modern classic,” and I consider it to be a must-read for all adults (particular as a great book for men and a great Winter read).
Beartown Books in Order
Below are the three Beartown books in order of publication:
Summaries and Reviews of the Beartown Books
Below are quick summaries and reviews of the three Beartown books. I tried to make them as “spoiler-free” as possible, but since these three novels follow the lives of many of the same characters in chronological order, some details of the plots must necessarily be revealed.
1 of 3: Beartown
- New York Times bestseller
- Named a Best Book of the Year by LibraryReads, BookBrowse, and Goodreads
Late one evening…a teenager picked up a shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there.-Fredrik Backman
Beartown begins at the end and, with an opening line as ominous as this one, you just know there’s an epic tale to be unraveled.
On its face, Beartown is the coming-of-age fiction story of the junior ice hockey team on a quest to compete in the national semi-finals. But, dig deeper and there’s a whole spider web of conflict and interconnectedness amongst the members of this small forest town that will leave you absolutely breathless.
Indeed, it’s about hockey, life, and death, and the repetition of the word “bang” reminds the reader of this. Bang is the sound of the hockey stick hitting the puck. Bang is the sound of the gunshot referred to at the outset.
Beartown is a remote and isolated town that is both overlooked and forgotten, but the only thing on any of the townspeople’s minds is the semi-finals.
The center of the team is the 17-year-old star, Kevin, coached by David and managed by Peter. Peter is married to Kira (a lawyer), and they have two children, Maya and Leo. Maya is a teen whose best friend is Ana. Amat, whose mother Fatima is a cleaner, is added to the team for his speed. Benji is Kevin’s best friend, and Ramona runs the local pub. These, and even more characters, round out the complex cast.
After one particular game, a young girl is raped by a player, and these accusations tear apart the team and the townspeople (players, coaches, parents, friends, fans, and sponsors — all with different interests). As the hockey tournament heats up, the deeply rooted emotions and perspectives of each of these people rise to the surface: justice, revenge, anger, jealousy, loyalty, competitiveness, courage, post-traumatic stress, and more of the deepest and darkest feelings experienced both in life and in competition.
And, through these feelings, a chain of events is set into motion, forever changing Beartown and all of its inhabitants.
Beartown is as close to perfect as a book gets (if you ask me). The characters are fully developed and their actions have motivations and consequences that fully immerse the reader in their lives. Furthermore, the writing style is intriguing and darkly poetic — the kind of eerily woven sentences that leave a lasting impact.
For more, read my full review of Beartown (with quotes).
2 of 3: Us Against You
Us Against You picks right back up as the town learns that its hockey team will be disbanded. Further, some of the team members have transferred to the rival team in Hed. As the remaining members of Beartown try to heal from the events of the first book, the hockey rivalry between the two teams heats up.
A new female coach, Elisabeth, gives the team a fighting chance with Benji, who is struggling with being secretly gay, at the helm. Meanwhile, Maya’s best friend, Ana, falls for team player, Vidar, and this relationship has lasting consequences.
These new circumstances ignite a spark that burns slowly throughout the novel and builds to an utterly explosive climax, while also weaving in intimate character portraits of the strengths and weaknesses of the townspeople.
Sadly, not everyone survives in this novel of high-stakes competition, and others fall in less deadly, yet still consequential, ways. The game is no less significant in this sequel, and those who remain at the end must solider on as they’ve always done.
In my opinion, Us Against You totally lives up to the hype and expectations of the biggest Beartown fans. While I thought no story could be as compelling, it truly was just as momentous, and in a league of its own from a literary perspective.
For more, read my full review of Us Against You (with quotes).
3 of 3: The Winners
The Winners picks up two years later when a new ice hockey rink has been built in Beartown, and Maya and Benji have come home to visit. But, this homecoming isn’t without its fair share of dramatic events. The opening line foreshadows that people like Benji don’t get happy endings, and an ominous storm heightens tensions again between Beartown and Hed.
Further, Maya’s parents, Peter and Kira, are in the middle of an investigation of the hockey club’s finances, and former player Amat struggles to get drafted into the NHL.
And, when a teenage boy becomes alienated and seeks revenge on the people he deems responsible for his sister’s death, someone won’t live through it. The Winners dives right back into sexual assault and its tragic consequences — yet another explosive act of violence.
Like the first two Beartown books, The Winners unravels themes of love, loss, and all-or-nothing identity in a heart-pounding tale of real human life that fans of the series can’t miss. The Winners completes the Beartown series in the most moving, dramatic fashion that ties up loose ends, yet is just about guaranteed to break your heart.
Frequently Asked Questions About Beartown Books
Below are quick answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the Beartown books.
Beartown is about a small Swedish town obsessed with hockey, and how the many different emotions underlying their obsession sets into motion a far-reaching chain of events after a teen girl is left traumatized by rape.
Yes, the HBO tv series Beartown is based on the bestselling book of the same name by Swedish author Fredrik Backman.
Yes, Beartown is the first book in the Beartown book series by Fredrik Backman, and Us Against You is the second. The storyline follows the same characters in chronological order, so the reader must start by reading the first book, Beartown, in order to fully understand the story in the second book, Us Against You.
Us Against You is the sequel to Beartown by Fredrik Backman. After a controversial rape caused some of the members of the Swedish hockey town to leave for the rival team, tensions rise between the teams and slowly build until they reach a violent and deadly conclusion.
Yes, Beartown is the first book in the Beartown book series by Fredrik Backman, and The Winners is the third. The story follows the same characters in chronological order, so the reader must start by reading the first book, Beartown, and then the second book, Us Against You, in order to fully understand the third book, The Winners.
That concludes this guide to the Beartown books by Fredrik Backman.