Ghost of Spirit Bear Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2019-08-11 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 110 user ratings

"Has A Good Message

I'm very torn on this book because I think there are some fairly good messages in it, but at the same time, it endorses some things I don't like.

As for the things I like, this book has a strong message of justice, forgiveness, and taking your life into your own hands. Those are really valuable things for teens to learn - that they CAN make change if they persevere. It did a very good job following up on how the lessons Cole learned in the island don't translate directly into the real world, which I think is very helpful in digesting how YOU as the reader can implement change in your own behavior, even if you can't move to a remote island.

The things I didn't like about this book, however, are a little more varied.

I understand that certain things about Cole are based on his past, but I think there was an unrealistic teetering between his delinquent personality and his reformed personality. His aggression toward Garvey when Garvey won't spell things out for him was excessive. I feel like it would be more realistic for him to be passively annoyed about it rather than lashing out. He's known Garvey a long time at this point and he knows from experience that he's incredible wise and experienced. Everything he says has meaning and with the number of times he's proven to be right, I find it unrealistic that Cole would have so little faith in him. One moment, Cole is yelling at Garvey over the phone saying he doesn't know what he's talking about and the next, he's preaching forgiveness and understanding. I know people are flawed, but this seemed more like the author had a vision for the good and changed person Cole was supposed to be but felt he needed to balance it out. Except, in the balancing process, he overcorrected to outward aggression when it would have made more sense for his aggression to be suppressed.

The next thing I didn't like about this book is subjective, but something I feel very strongly about. As someone who grew up in an abusive household, I do NOT like that this book endorses trying to help your abuser. I don't think there's anything wrong with being cordial toward an abuser in the occasion that you come across them, but this book actively encourages its readers to reach out. I think the author had good intentions with this, but the target audience is very impressionable and in the real world, a very high percentage of abusers will not change. There are many that do, but encouraging a teenager, who for all intents and purposes is a child, to reach out and take responsibility for their abusive, adult parent, is horrible writing. Accepting an apology and reconnecting after an abuser has already changed their behavior and wishes to right their wrongs is one thing, but trying to fix them when they're still unrepentant and blaming everyone around them is absolutely detrimental to the healing process of an abuser survivor. Abuse survivors already have serious problems with trying to help their abusers, because it's almost always someone they love (like a parent or significant other). This is one of the reasons the cycle of abuse is so hard to break free of. Having a book encourage this in the band of love and healing is the main reason I knocked my rating down to two stars. I absolutely can't endorse this.

The next thing I didn't like about this book was how sensationalist it felt. There was this constant feeling that Cole was some kind of saint because of his experiences. I know that's not how it was meant to come across, but let me tell you, as a teenager - and even now as a young adult - I would have hated him. He became one of those people who seems like he's on a high horse, constantly regaling his story of redemption in a way that feels like he's trying to show off how 'wise' he is for his age. Teenagers hate that shit. There is absolutely no way that an entire school of students would have backed him when he came off like some kind of holier than thou wiseass. Teenagers in particular, find people like that to be obnoxious. That's why I'd you try to preach your Christianity or something at school, other students will steer clear of you or bully you. It's downright annoying.

The last thing I didn't like about this book was the ending. The author uses coincidence and what was seemingly supernatural to tie up loose ends. It didn't feel satisfying to me and it felt like a cop-out.

All in all, this book had decent parts to it but I cannot recommend it. I know next to nothing about the author's personal life, but this whole book came off like an abuser's 'we can change if you just stick around and get hit long enough' wet dream.
" said.

"An interesting but not quite as powerful follow up to "Touching Spirit Bear." This book realistically and touchingly answers the question, "What does Cole do with the knowledge he gains from the Spirit Bear?" Cole Matthews was a troubled teen, but now that he's well on his way to healing, what legacy will he leave?

Cole and his once-victim, now-friend Peter must return to their high school to once again navigate halls packed with gangs, drugs, bullies, and fear. Will Cole be able to control himself now? Or will the old environment of torment cause the monster of his anger to rise again?

The story is strong, but it lacks some of the raw emotional punch of the first book. Still, it's a worthy little continuation of Cole and Peter's story, and a way of showing that sometimes it's hard to heal, but it's even harder to share that healing.
" said.

"This is the sequel to Touching Spirit Bear, which I have not read, but this book gives a good 'catch-up' synopsis at the beginning. I think the setting of a really crummy, violent urban school in Minneapolis is interesting - I would not have chosen Minneapolis for that kind of school, but it needed to have a big Native American connection, and you wouldn't necessarily get that in NYC or Chicago or LA. The school is full of physically violent and speech abusing bullies, jaded teachers, a new principal who walks on eggs at the beginning. It has a feel good ending, and some of the lessons about learning to choose how to react to situations are OK, but it seemed contrived to me. The kid who comes back from Alaskan banishment does struggle with readjusting to the real world. Apparently in the first book the kid he beat up (inducing permanent brain damage of all things) joins him in the wilderness and they become best friends. That seems contrived, too, with the kids coming from an urban, not native,life. It seemed just a bit too easy for all of the kids to 'come together' at the school and work toward changing the mascot. Maybe the school was not as large as our high schools down here; I just can't see that happening in Texas, much as I would like to, considering how much bullying goes on right under the administration's nose. This might go up to high school level, considering the ages of the characters, but I don't think HS kids would buy into it too much." said.

" Review/Critique

Mikaelsen, B. (2008). Ghost of Spirit Bear. New York: Harper Collins.

Why the book was chosen
I chose Ghost of Spirit Bear purposefully it is the sequel to Touching Spirit Bear by Ben
Mikaelsen. The cover of the book is wonderful. It features a mighty bear rising above a building,
mouth wide, open fangs visible. I was interested in finding out how Cole Matthews and Peter
Driscal were doing since their last experience, which was a healing journey for themselves.

Summary/Overview of the book
Cole Matthews was a violent fifteen year old; his victim was Peter Driscal. Cole had smashed Peters' head against the sidewalk causing serious damage to Peter. The incident wounded Peter to his core. Peter became suicidal after being brutalized; he had lost his place in
the world. Healing was a challenge for both boys. Peter and Cole survived the island together. It was time for the boys to go home to where reality and reliance on themselves would be put to the
test. Cole, with an rage just below the surface, and Peter, with a limp and a speech problem, make them targets in high school. Could Cole and Peter survive the city filled with gangs, bullies and
violence? Ghost of Spirit Bear is about the struggles the boys face in a urban setting that is turbulent and violent. Somehow they must find a way to survive without doing harm. Cole and Peter are challenged by the real fact that their internal self-change was not going to be enough when back in the city. Peter and Cole have Garvey their counselor, to support them and he offers advice. The boys would need each other. They would need to use their brains and new skills to
change the world they live in; meanwhile, a entity in the form of an elusive old street man (the Ghost of Spirit Bear) is watching them.
Specific quotes from the text

"Cole spoke bitterly. 'We're both in trouble when everybody figures out that fighting will send me
to jail.'...." Peter laughed and chimed in, 'see the boy tho got his head smashed and had to go to
Alaska so he wouldn't commit suicide' (p. 14).
" 'Don't fight!' Peter screamed. Let them beat me up!"(p. 28).
"I told you before, fight em" Garvey said. "Just don't use your fists." (p. 59).
Cole comments "....well yesterday, I opened my eyes and found that old homeless guy staring at me across the parking lot. I looked down for just a few seconds, and when I looked
back he was gone." (p. 72)

My questions, inferences, visual images, thoughts, reactions, feelings, opinions
The Ghost of Spirit Bear is a saga or continuation of Cole and Peters healing process. I
questioned Cole's inability to follow through with his line of questioning when it came to the spirit bears essence he saw in the old bum's eyes. Why did Cole not figure it out, was he so frightened to not see the goodness in the eyes? I felt like the story was a typical continuation, Ghost of Spirit Bear was a good book to read. My own curiosity in how Cole and Peter were going to handle urban life piqued my interest to read it all the way through. I am sure that a teen
would enjoy the adventure and have fun reading about the challenges the book presents. Ghost of Spirit Bear brings out current issues of today. The book brings out bullying in schools, the effects
and causes of suicide, which in turn could help a teen speak out to someone they trust and seek help.

Re-evaluating the story with reference to values, ideals, beliefs, and or institutions of Aboriginal
The values in Ghost of Spirit Bear are shown in the wisdom of Garvey, the counsellor, and the justice circle, and Cole, for sure, epitomized wisdom. He was able to forgive through love, for Cole that was powerful lesson he learned. The justice circle is a traditional way of dealing with youth who offend; it is an institution of law. The justice circle is a viable option for youth

My transformed thoughts: What is not written in the story but now I am thinking about...
I am thinking about irony. The story Ghost of Spirit Bear effectively shows how difficult it
is to use traditional practises in urban settings. Cole and Peter look for alternatives, such as a
freezer to chill out in and use bowling balls instead of Grandfather rocks. It is funny. Ghost of
Spirit Bear brings out the issue of Native contemporary identity and traditional practices.
" said.

"This was a really beautiful read. One thing Mikaelsen does so perfectly is create the feeling of helplessness in a high school setting. Admittedly I find that there are a lot fewer "bullies" in today's high schools and most teens are primarily faced with their own inner demons, but I was pleasantly surprised with the way that Cole eventually learned how to face them.

When Garvey kept telling Cole that the way he way dealing with Keith was wrong, I felt as helpless as Cole did trying to figure out exactly what Garvey meant. Mikaelsen really makes you as the reader feel like you yourself are the protagonist of the story, and it is not often that a book nowadays can create that level of empathy. As the tension builds, the story presents many shocking aspects, not allowing you to even breathe as you read from one trauma to the next. (view spoiler)" said.

" I loved book 1, “Touching Spirit Bear” and enjoy booktalking it to students. I only recently became aware of this sequel. It is a quick read but also good. The bonus/ extra section from the author at the back is especially insightful. Mikaelsen has an important message to share with young people about the impact of your actions & reactions.Students who want to read more about Cole & Peter after the island will enjoy this. " said.

" So far the book goes on at the island and Cole must tare down his cabin to keep his memories of burning and building a cabin. They (Cole and Peter) thought they will never see the spirit bear but they are waiting for a big suprise. " said.

" I thought Touching Spirit Bear was a great book and I recommend it all the time, so naturally I was excited to see a sequel and couldn't wait to read it. I was totally disappointed. This book was diadatic, judgemental, and telly. Where was the richness of the previous book? Ghost of Spirit Bear reads more like an outline instead of a story. Too predictable and not well-developed, I'm glad I read this one from the library instead of buying my own copy. " said.

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