Cole Matthews, the young protagonist of Ben Mikaelsen’s Touching Spirit Bear, has a history of aggression. One day, Cole robs a hardware store, and later beats and severely injures Peter, the boy who reports the crime. A Native American Justice Circle gives Cole the opportunity of redemption, by embarking on a healing period in isolation. Cole is banished for a year to a remote Alaskan island, finding a sponsor in his probation officer, Garvey, who wants to give Cole another chance. On the island, Cole has a rough shelter and some supplies, but he must manage on his own. Instead of embracing the opportunity to atone for his past mistakes, Cole becomes bent on self-destruction, setting fire to his shelter. He attempts to attack the white Spirit Bear, and suffers a mauling courtesy of the magnificent beast, nearly dying. However, Cole is rescued, and slowly recovers back home, after which he begs for another chance on the island. This time, Cole takes to heart and begins to accept the wisdom he has been offered, and he starts to take responsibility for his actions. The healing circle is complete when Cole persuades Peter to come to the island, and enact his own catharsis. Mikaelsen's gripping story of survival and redemption is well plotted, with rich character depth, and is geared towards readers ages 10 and up.