Thursday, September 25, 2008

Touching Spirit Bear

by Ben Mikaelsen
HarperTeen, 2005

I like to keep on top of what my kids are reading in school, so when I found out my daughter's grade 8 class was reading this together, I decided to pick up my own copy.

Cole Matthews is a young offender on the verge of being convicted of a violent assault against a classmate. Faced with the choice of going to jail or taking part in traditional native Circle Justice, Cole chooses the latter. He figures he'll play along and outsmart those who are trying to "help" him. He believes they don't really care.

Banished to an island off the coast of Alaska, things don't go quite as Cole planned. A failed escape attempt, followed by his near-fatal mauling by a bear, lead to the beginnings of a changed outlook. Cole's anger does not immediately subside, but over a period of time he learns the lessons he needs to know in order to choose a different future for himself.

As far as the native elements are concerned, a review by Beverly Slapin (click here) concludes that Touching Spirit Bear is "a terrible book". While I didn't always find Cole, or the situations he was in, to be credible, I did find it a mostly enjoyable read.

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