I straight up did not realize this wasn’t set in the US until, like, the last chapter, so whoops for my American centralism. That it takes place in Sweden does change some things, but not a lot. And it was unnerving to realize that some of our darkest realities are no better on the other side of the Atlantic.
The book jacket bears out the broad plot. Beartown is a small hamlet and it is dying. Jobs are down, alcoholism is up, and all they have going for them is their juniors hockey team. Not even the A level – the juniors. Teenage boys. At the height of their trajectory, as they lead in to the national finals, a girl is violently attacked and it will tear the town apart.
It’s exactly what you think it is.
I assumed that from the get-go and read spoilers that confirmed it and it made it even harder to read, just … waiting for this poor 15-year-old girl to be violently, intimately assaulted by a classmate viewed as a deity. As the town reacts, every single scenario you’ve ever dreaded plays out. “Had she been drinking?” “Why did she wait to say anything?” “He wouldn’t do that, he can be with anyone he wants.” Like, the works.
It is a relief to see the other side of the town come to her defense, to see her mother, father, and younger brother band tight around her, to see how goddamn strong she is in the face of violence she never should have experienced, to see her bond with her best friend grow diamond-hard. But I don’t feel better for having read it. Nothing plays out in any way that feels satisfying or like justice was done. Granted, this book takes the Harry Potter “10 Years Later” and does it right but I don’t have faith that anything out here in the real world will change. As long as we as a society deify people (boys), they will act as though they are gods, everyone else be damned. And I’m sadder for knowing that this attitude is not unique to America.