Touching Spirit Bear

Touching Spirit Bear - Ben Mikaelsen "Touching Spirit Bear" is a wonderful coming of age/redemptive story of a 15-year-old boy whose anger issues flare up out of control. Cole has had more than several "last chances" to turn his behavior around. Coming from the home of an abusive father and a mother who seems to turn a blind eye, Cole lashes out at everything and everyone who crosses his path. Cole crosses the line far enough to where he beats a boy so badly that the boy ends up brain damaged and in the hospital. Facing a criminal sentence, Cole opts to take part of the Circle Justice program to have yet another "last chance" to redeem himself for his lies and actions. Cole readily agrees to it in order to avoid jail time, but is initially insincere in his promises to change. As a part of the agreement, Cole's sent on a special trip to Alaska to live in the wilderness in order to redeem himself, yet the trip is not what he expects. He encounters a bear and a journey that makes him question everything he's been through, and discover his own road to forgiving others, as well as himself. This story really impressed me, and I don't say that lightly as far as intrigue of the story dimensions concerned. There's two angles this story works well within - the survival aspect, where Cole faces living in the wilderness and fights for his life after an encounter with the Spirit Bear, and the redemptive aspect where Cole begins to change his attitude while showcasing the road he takes toward taking responsibility for his actions. It's very plausible, and while I think there were many places where Cole was a self-centered, unlikable brat, I thought the story did a great job of making him a sympathetic character who begins to see his life in a different way. He has a difficult existence, and the author does well highlighting his flaws. The story also does a great job of bringing to light the boy that Cole injures and bringing forth the demons that he's had to face in his recovery, as well as how the two boys encounter each other again.I am definitely reading the sequel to this if I can find it in my local library. I would recommend it to those who like YA survival stories blended in with a nice measure of coming of age/realistic fiction stories with supernatural elements (though those elements are light through most of the work).Overall score: 4.5/5