Sunday, January 9, 2011

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

This book surprised me, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Cole is a bully. He likes making people fear him, and he takes it too far when he nearly beats a classmate to death. Instead of going to jail, he is given a chance by a Circle Council to change his ways by spending a year by himself on an Alaskan island. Cole is so angry that he burns down his shelter, along with his supplies, and tries to escape the island by swimming. He fails, which increases his anger. He ends up attacking a white bear, because it doesn't seem to fear him. The bear bites, claws, and stomps on Cole to the brink of death. Cole is saved by his two mentors, and he is allowed to return to the island months later as a last chance before being sentenced to prison. He learns about himself by experiencing nature, and he is able to learn something from each animal he encounters. He manages to learn about himself and life, but he will never truly be healed until he is able to atone for the beating of his classmate.

This book surprised me, because it was much more emotional than I anticipated. I was expecting another survival story, like Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, and it had some similarities. It has more similarities to the spirituality found in Paulsen's Dogsong. Some readers will not enjoy this book, because it lacks constant action. However, it has moments of suspense, and the Cole's internal conflict with his anger is a constant battle. Every day is a new meditation session as he finds himself, but there's always something missing right up to the climax of the plot. Nature lovers and readers who enjoy seeing good come out of evil will enjoy this book. The plot seemed to start dragging during the first third of the book, but my opinion changed when I embraced Cole's battle within himself.

Lexile level from 670

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