|Basic InformationMore InformationLatest NewsQuestions and AnswersBlog EntriesVideosLinksBook Reviews|100 Things Guys Need to Know3 NBS of Julian DrewA Guide to Asperger SyndromeA Tribe ApartA User Guide to the GF/CF Diet for Autism, Asperger Syndrome and AD/HDA Walk in the Rain With a BrainAdolescence and Body ImageAdolescent DepressionAfterAggression and Antisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsAll Alone in the UniverseAmelia RulesAmericaAnother PlanetAntisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsArtemis FowlAssessment and Treatment of Childhood Problems, Second EditionAutistic Spectrum DisordersBad GirlBetween Two WorldsBeyond AppearanceBeyond Diversity DayBig Mouth & Ugly GirlBill HensonBipolar DisordersBody Image, Eating Disorders, and ObesityBody Image, Eating Disorders, and Obesity in YouthBoyBoysBrandedBreaking PointBreathing UnderwaterBringing Up ParentsBullying and TeasingCan't Eat, Won't EatCatalystChild and Adolescent Psychological DisordersChildren Changed by TraumaChildren with Emerald EyesChildren’s Dreaming and the Development of Consciousness City of OneConcise Guide to Child and Adolescent PsychiatryConquering the Beast WithinContentious IssuesCrackedCutDancing in My NuddypantsDemystifying the Autistic ExperienceDescartes' BabyDilemmas of DesireDirtyDoing ItDoing SchoolDying to Be ThinEating an ArtichokeEducating Children With AutismElijah's CupEllison the ElephantEmerald City BluesEmotional and Behavioral Problems of Young ChildrenEvery Girl Tells a StoryFast GirlsFeather BoyFiregirlForever YoungFreaks, Geeks and Asperger SyndromeFreewillGeography ClubGeorgia Under WaterGirl in the MirrorGirlfightingGirlsourceGirlWiseGLBTQGood GirlsGoodbye RuneGranny Torrelli Makes SoupGrowing Up GirlHandbook for BoysHealing ADDHeartbeatHelping Children Cope With Disasters and TerrorismHelping Parents, Youth, and Teachers Understand Medications for Behavioral and Emotional ProblemsHollow KidsHow Children Learn the Meanings of WordsHow to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do If You Can'tHug MeIntrusive ParentingIt's Me!It's Perfectly NormalJake RileyJoey Pigza Swallowed the KeyJuvenile-Onset SchizophreniaKeeping the MoonKilling MonstersKim: Empty InsideKnocked Out by My Nunga-NungasLaura Numeroff's 10-Step Guide to Living with Your MonsterLearning About School ViolenceLeo the Lightning BugLet Kids Be KidsLiberation's ChildrenLife As We Know ItLisa, Bright and DarkLittle ChicagoLord of the FliesLoserLove and SexLove That DogManicMastering Anger and AggressionMind FieldsMiss American PieMom, Dad, I'm Gay.MonsterMore Than a LabelMyths of ChildhoodNew Hope for Children and Teens with Bipolar DisorderNo Two AlikeNot Much Just Chillin'Odd Girl OutOdd Girl Speaks OutOn the Frontier of AdulthoodOne Hot SecondOne in ThirteenOphelia SpeaksOphelia's MomOur Journey Through High Functioning Autism and Asperger SyndromeOut of the DustOvercoming School AnxietyParenting and the Child's WorldParenting Your Out-Of-Control TeenagerPediatric PsychopharmacologyPeriod PiecesPhobic and Anxiety Disorders in Children and AdolescentsPINSPraising Boys WellPraising Girls WellPretty in PunkPrincess in the SpotlightProblem Child or Quirky Kid?Psychotherapy As PraxisPsychotherapy for Children and AdolescentsRaising a Self-StarterRaising BlazeRaising Resilient ChildrenReclaiming Our ChildrenRedressing the EmperorReducing Adolescent RiskRethinking ADHDReweaving the Autistic TapestryRineke DijkstraRitalin is Not the Answer Action GuideRunning on RitalinSay YesSexual Teens, Sexual MediaSexuality in AdolescenceShooterShort PeopleShould I Medicate My Child?Skin GameSmackSmashedStaying Connected to Your TeenagerStick FigureStoner & SpazStop Arguing with Your KidsStraight Talk about Your Child's Mental HealthStrong, Smart, & BoldStudent DepressionSurvival Strategies for Parenting Children with Bipolar DisorderSurviving OpheliaTaking Charge of ADHD, Revised EditionTaming the Troublesome ChildTargeting AutismTeaching Problems and the Problems of TeachingTeen Angst? NaaahThat SummerThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook Of Child And Adolescent PsychiatryThe Arctic IncidentThe Bipolar ChildThe Buffalo TreeThe Bully, the Bullied, and the BystanderThe Carnivorous CarnivalThe Depressed ChildThe Developing MindThe Dragons of AutismThe Dream BearerThe Dulcimer Boy The Einstein SyndromeThe EpidemicThe Eternity CubeThe Explosive ChildThe Field of the DogsThe First IdeaThe Identity TrapThe Inside Story on Teen GirlsThe Little TernThe Mean Girl MotiveThe Men They Will BecomeThe Myth of LazinessThe New Gay TeenagerThe Notebook GirlsThe Nurture AssumptionThe Opposite of InvisibleThe Order of the Poison OakThe Other ParentThe Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday LifeThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Rise and Fall of the American TeenagerThe Secret Lives of GirlsThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Shared HeartThe Spider and the BeeThe StepsThe Thought that CountsThe Unhappy ChildThe Vile VillageThe Whole ChildThen Again, Maybe I Won'tTherapy with ChildrenThings I Have to Tell YouTouching Spirit BearTrauma in the Lives of ChildrenTreacherous LoveTrue BelieverTwistedUnhappy TeenagersWay to Be!We're Not MonstersWhat about the KidsWhat Would Joey Do?What's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhen Nothing Matters AnymoreWhen Sex Goes to SchoolWhen Your Child Has an Eating DisorderWhere The Kissing Never StopsWhose America?Why Are You So Sad?WinnicottWorried All the TimeYes, Your Teen Is Crazy!You Hear MeYoung People and Mental HealthYour Child, Bully or Victim?
by Ben Mikaelsen
Harpercollins Juvenile, 2001
Review by Judith Catton on Oct 30th 2001
Cole Matthews is a violent, out-of-control, angry teen. He has
been in and out of trouble with the police for most of his teenage
years, committing first crimes against property and, increasingly,
crimes of violence against people. His latest outrage - a mindless,
vicious attack on innocent bystander Peter Driscal, has left his
victim with permanent brain damage and profound psychological
Angry and resentful, Cole seems on an inevitable trajectory to
prison, and perhaps therefore also to a life of crime. Through
the compassionate intervention of two community workers whose
motivation is atonement for their own (undisclosed) youthful criminal
behavior, Cole is offered the chance to participate in Circle
Justice - a process of restitution based on Native American tradition.
Circle Justice offers the chance for atonement for the perpetrator
of the crime, the chance for restitution, and perhaps also for
the victim and community's forgiveness. These concepts are in
fact completely foreign to Cole, himself the victim of an unstable
and violent home situation. Just as Cole has been exposed to the
damage and lies of alcoholism and domestic violence, so too is
he deeply scarred. Cole's caseworkers know that the deep resentment
and anger that Cole harbors make him an unlikely candidate for
Circle Justice. When he is initially given his "sentence"
- one year's solitary confinement to a remote island in the Alaskan
waters, it is clear to the reader that his commitment to the program
is surface only. His first act once left in solitary confinement
on the remote island is one of extreme vandalism followed by a
thwarted attempt at escape.
It is ultimately the intervention not by any person, but by the
giant, powerful Spirit Bear of the story's title that triggers
the beginning of a change in perspective for Cole. This legendary
(though also very real) Spirit Bear encounters and responds to
Cole's aggression by savaging him and leaving him close to death.
Through this near-death encounter Cole is humbled enough to start
on a long and very painful journey of atonement, a journey that
that eventually enables him to see himself no longer as the center,
but as only a small part of a much larger and much richer whole.
Michaelson gives us a full picture of teenage Cole's troubled
personality, his life, his chances and his painful growth. He
paints a picture of an angry, out-of-control teen who resists,
wrestles with, and finally accepts, the chance to face responsibility
for his choices. The novel's bringing together of Cole and his
damaged victim, Peter at the end is perhaps unlikely, and yet
this idealized conclusion nevertheless suggests to the reader
a potentially constructive alternative to conventional routes
of punishment and retribution, and a thoughtful, positive view
of the chance to heal deep wounds.
© 2001 Judith Catton
Judith Catton is a teacher and librarian with a longstanding interest in
children's literature. After completing graduate study in Library and
Information Science, and in English in Ontario, Canada, she has worked as a
children's specialist in public libraries in both Canada and New Zealand.
Her professional interests span children's literature and learning, and
information literacy. Her current professional focus is full-time teaching
in a New Zealand primary school.