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(Review by John Mc)

Cole Matthews is a punk, through and through. For years, people have tried to help by sending him to detention centers, drug counseling, anger therapy sessions, and residential treatment centers. Most of Cole’s anger stems from his dad getting drunk and then beating him while his mother does nothing to stand up for him. Cole finally reaches his boiling point after a kid rats him out for breaking into a hardware store. After school one day, Cole catches up with the kid, Peter Driscal, and beats him up by smashing Peter’s head into the sidewalk repeatedly.

Garvey, Cole’s youth probation officer, suggests applying for Circle Justice. Circle Justice is a healing form of justice practiced by native cultures for thousands of years. After much debate, Cole is sentenced to a year on a remote Southeast Alaskan island. Cole must prove himself by releasing his anger and finding his inner peace. At first, things do not go out very well for Cole. He burns the shelter that was built for him, tries to escape by swimming to another island, and is mauled by a white Spirit Bear. After being mauled by the Spirit Bear, Cole is sent back to Minneapolis to heal from his wounds.

After about seven months, the Circle Justice agrees to send Cole back to the island. He must build his own shelter, find food, cut firewood, and figure out how to live by himself. Cole soaks in an ice cold pond, carves a totem pole, and rolls ancestors rocks down a hill to release his anger. Meanwhile, Peter is still struggling with his injuries and tries to commit suicide twice. Cole convinces Garvey to talk to Peter’s family about Peter coming to stay on the island. Eventually, Peter comes to the island where the story of redemption and friendship truly begins.

There is some, but it is not very graphic.



Seeing a Spirit Bear is a little mythical, but they really do exist.


What are some ways that you can find your inner peace and deal with circumstance that do not always seem fair?
Would Circle Justice work for troubled teens these days? Why or why not?

Who in your life has been most helpful when you are feeling down or not appreciated?