Overall: A beautifully written book with well-developed characters that will have you rooting, crying, laughing, and smiling with them. Fans of Beartown will enjoy this sequel but it is not up to the same level as the first. 3.5/5 or 6.5/10
The Good: The author and translator are absolutely incredible. I love the writing and overall tone in all of his novels and this one was the same. I loved Beartown and the characters in it, and many of them are back in this sequel. I especially loved Benji and the layers and development you experience with him throughout the course of the story. Maya and Anna were also strong characters that stood out and continued to grow more throughout the book. For new characters, I absolutely adored Elizabeth Zackell and wish there was more time devoted to her. There are some very strong themes and important points made throughout the course of this book and they are all made beautifully. Even though many bad things happen, this story has an overall positive and empowering theme of surviving.
The Bad: I find it very difficult to write reviews for sequels because it is almost impossible to not compare the books to each other. So therefore, full disclosure, I am going to compare them and many of the negatives may not be negatives to me if this were a stand alone book. Beartown was a phenomenal book; Us Against You was a good book. One of the things I loved about Beartown was all the different character perspectives and how this strengthened and added to the story overall. In Us Against You, I almost feel that there were too many characters so you did not get the depth you got in Beartown (minus Benji, Anna, and maya), so this overall was a negative. I also think there were two many events, twists, and tragedy in this novel that it actually took away from the story. By the end, it was almost predictable that something terrible was going to happen to yet another character. There was no real peak in this, but rather bad thing and twists just kept happening repeatedly over and over that this really did take away for me. Still a good read but not to the same level as Beartown.
Favorite quotes: “Everyone is a hundred different things, but in other people’s eyes we usually get the chance to be only one of them.”
“The complicated thing about good and bad people alike is that most of us can be both at the same time.”
“Sometimes people have to be allowed to have something to live for in order to survive everything else.”
“At some point almost everyone makes a choice. Some of us don't even notice it happening, most don't get to plan it in advance, but there's always a moment when we take one path instead of another, which has consequences for the rest of our lives. It determines the people we will become, in other people's eyes as well as our own. Elizabeth Zackell may have been right when she said that anyone who feels responsibility isn't free. Because responsibility is a burden. Freedom is a pleasure.”
"Guys never think about light, it just isn’t a problem in their lives. When guys are scared of the dark, they’re scared of ghosts and monsters, but when girls are scared of the dark, they’re scared of guys.”
“It’s hard to care about people. Exhausting, in fact, because empathy is a complicated thing. It requires us to accept that everyone else’s lives are also going on the whole time. We have no pause button for when everything gets too much for us to deal with, but then neither does anyone else.”
“Anyone who devotes his life to being the best at one single thing will be asked, sooner or later, the same question: “Why?” Because if you want to become the best at something, you have to sacrifice everything else.”