Touching Spirit Bear Sasha Hassan

Sasha Hassan, News Editor

Cole Matthews, a fifteen year-old juvenile delinquent, has been tossed from therapist to therapist in an attempt to curb his violent tendencies to no avail. When Cole beats up 9th grade Peter Driscal, he is sentenced to one year on an island to give him time to change his attitude. Cole is told of the spirit bear, a white black bear that wanders the island. When Cole is left alone to begin his year or solitude, he soon grows angry and burns his cabin and proceeds to attempts to attack the spirit bear, which he? mauls. Left on the ground, severely injured, Cole lies on the ground as a storm passes through the island. It is only then that Cole realizes that he has been taking his life for granted. He understands that his life is a precious gift that he came so close to throwing away.

The book isn’t very long, making it look like a children’s novel. In addition, the simple writing style makes it so that much younger kids could read the book. However, the book’s deeper message aims to reach older children.

When I first read about Cole, I understood he cared little about his life. He steals from stores even after he’s caught and burns his own home out of spite. Cole enjoys provoking others to make him feel less weak and insecure about himself. He spends his time taunting those who mean him well, like his parole officer, to relieve his anger.

In the novel, I traveled with Cole to the brink of death, where he realizes he does want to live. Though his close scrape to death is a shock, Cole spends a lot of time reflecting on what he’s done and is able to let go of a lot of his anger. He realizes that the Spirit Bear left him alone until he attempted to kill it. Cole realizes that his injuries came from self-defense and that the bear lives mostly in peace.

As Cole learns from the bear, I as a reader got to watch him undergo a dramatic change. He realizes that he and the Spirit Bear share a lot. They both have a lot of power inside them and prefer not to deal with others. He begins daily routines, such as bathing is cold water and long hours of self reflection to try to control his impulses and better himself. Cole learns he must understand how to not let his anger control him and ruin his life. In order to take his life back, he must become the Spirit Bear.