Review | Beartown | Fredrick Bachman
Publication Date: April 25th, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Page Count: 432 Pages
Why I read it: I saw it EVERYWHERE on Instagram, and I didn't see one person who had something bad to say about it.
First Sentence: "Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else's forehead, and pulled the trigger."
Synopsis: 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 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 Thoughts: I won't lie. It took me a minute to find the motivation to get Beartown to the top of my list. I have only heard great things, but nothing about the synopsis grabbed me. I don't tend to love books that are rife with super small town drama and, even though I'm a sports fan, I wasn't all that interested in reading what I assumed to be a hockey version of Friday Night Lights.
Was I ever wrong.
This book is about so much more than small town small drama or gossip, or about hockey. The story features rich, well thought out characters that don't always do what you expect them to do. Some of them are very well developed (Benji, I love you) and others are barely named (Kevin's mother), but I thought he used this as a technique to help set the tone. Right from the beginning, it's ominous. You know something bad is going to happen (starting with one of the best opening lines I've read in awhile). You get the sense the town has been doing things the same way for as long as anyone can remember, and that they'll do anything they have to to maintain the status quo. It took me about 10% of the book to get into it, but once I got there I was hooked. I now know why there aren't very many captivating synopses about this book- it's better to go in relatively blind. This book is about about family and about power. It's about life's fleeting moments and the things we do to protect the ones we love. There are no black and white answers here; the book is comfortable with exploring grey areas. (I should say, to me the answer is black and white. And it should be very clear who's in the wrong, but the discussions had about where to place the blame is realistic.) This book is so timely and current and I am very happy I read it when I did. I just found out it's going to be a series and I can't wait to get my hands on the next one! This is definitely a world I would be happy to know more about.
A part of what initially turned me off from the book was my assumption that it would be all about the boys. However, the female characters in this were some of the most interesting. I loved Kira and her talking about her struggle and desire to want to be a "career woman" and a good mother. I loved that the girl was inspired to do the right thing because she wanted to protect girls in the future. Bachman's writing is lush and evocative- I can't believe he's only 36. He uses a lot of imagery and foreshadowing and I found myself doing copious amounts of highlighting. It's a perfect winter read, and I think anyone who likes books with heart will like this book, no matter what their relationship to hockey.
Favorite Quote: “The only thing the sport gives us are moments. But what the hell is life, Peter, apart from moments?”
Read Alike: This Is How It Always Is for the examination of family and the feels.
Rating: 5/5 Worth the hype. One of my favorite reads of the year.
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