Esther's Reviews > Touching Spirit Bear

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen
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's review
Sep 14, 2012

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Read in August, 2012

Cole's had a tough life. His father is a raging drunk who beats Cole, and his mother lets it happen. After their divorce, Cole blames his rotten attitude on them. He has no guilt when it comes to beating up other kids, lying, and stealing. After losing his temper at a fellow student, Peter, Cole attacks Peter and beats him until he's severely injured. Cole faces serious charges in court, but he's given a choice, jail or circle justice, a Native American form of healing and change. Cole decides anything would be better than jail, and is sent to an island in Alaska to spend a year in isolation. His journey is a long one, filled with pain and mistakes, all watched over by the mysterious Spirit Bear, but Cole must learn to take responsibility for his actions, or he might never survive the island.

I actually had a difficult time getting into this book. It is most definitely a "boy book." Most of the time I actually enjoy boy books, especially ones about survival, like The Hatchet or Lord of the Flies. The reason I had a hard time with this one was because of Cole's attitude. He is incredibly stubborn and refuses to take responsibility for any of his actions. No matter what he does or what happens to him, he blames it on someone else. Now, if you can't stand main characters who are as severely flawed as Cole, that doesn't mean you shouldn't read this book. I'm glad I stuck with it because what ensues is a journey of acceptance and forgiveness. At first it's hard to believe that Cole is actually changing, but as the book continues you can see that he's not perfect, and he continues to struggle with his anger, but like what Edwin the Native American elder tells Cole, "Everybody carries anger inside. But also happiness. Those who focus on anger will always be angry." Cole begins to find ways to stifle his anger and focus instead on being happy. It's a good book, but definitely not one I would have picked out on my own. I enjoyed the forgiveness that occurred, but as a reader I found it hard to forgive Cole. He is so deceiving in the beginning, that I kept asking myself, "Is this just another trick?" I have never understood the idea of blaming your problems on other people, but then again I've had a fairly easy life. I think that's why it was good for me to read this book, because it helped me understand another perspective on life. I'd really like to here the opinion on this book of someone who has gone through a similar change.


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