Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Chasing The Bear - Robert B. Parker

Chasing The Bear
A Young Spenser Novel
Robert B. Parker
Philomel Books

Young Adult

As a longtime fan of the Spenser novels (he’s a PI in Boston) I’ve always wondered about his youth. As a grown man, he has a very defined sense of what is right and what is wrong; a set of ethics that dictates his actions in virtually every situation. That doesn’t happen overnight. So when I found this novel about his teen years, I was very interested.

The book begins with adult Spenser and his significant other, Susan. Susan would like to know about his youth. Spenser tells her, in a flashback, about an incident when he was a kid. A mere seven pages later, the story flips back to adult Spenser and Susan, smugly flirting with each other. Each story he tells is interrupted in the same way. A few times, instead of showing the readers what happened through the eyes of his teenaged self, adult Spenser simply tells Susan, in a few sentences, what happened. This kind of ‘telling instead of showing’ really diminishes a lot of the emotional impact of the stories. I wonder if young adult readers, who probably haven’t read any Spenser novels and may be meeting the character here for the first time, really care to read pages full of adult Spenser and Susan analyzing his actions. My guess would be no.

The actual incidents from his teen years are clearly formative experiences. Loosely connected, they provide a good deal of insight into why and how Spenser grew up to be the kind of man he did. For readers familiar with the Spenser series (mostly adults, I suspect) these incidents will ring absolutely true to his character. The material itself is fine for young adult readers 12 and up. There’s no graphic violence or sexual content; a couple of fistfights and a few kisses is about the extent of it.

Rating: 6
May 2009
ISBN# 978-0-399-24776-7 (hardcover)


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