As I read this book I tried to think of another book to compare it to. No other book for adults, but from the perspective of a child has pulled me in quite so fast, and I found myself surprised and delighted at how well the author seemed to be able to delve into the mind of a young girl and describe what she was feeling. Room by Emma Donoghue is the only book I could think of that is similar in reading style. These books are both told from the point of view of a child, although The Bear is narrated by a young female and Room is about a young boy. If you loved Room, I would suggest trying out this book.
The Bear started out with a prologue that was based on a true story. Then the book proceeded to tell a fictional account of a family of four that frequently go camping on a small island. This idea of camping in the wilderness sounds quite cozy and fun, but the little that I knew about this story gave me the idea that all would not end well. Anna, the narrator of this book, is a scant five years old, and her brother Alex, aka “Stick”, only two.
I don’t think I would try taking such young children camping, but Anna and Stick’s parents don’t seem to mind the extra work that must come with packing diapers and extra snacks. Speaking of parents, the lack of introduction to the parents was an interesting tactic on the author’s part. It felt like Anna and Stick loved their parents, but looked at them as protectors and people who fed them; they weren’t old enough to really understand the role parents play in a family. So when the children’s mother tells the two kids to paddle a canoe out into the water alone, the kids figure she is giving them an ordinary task, or an opportunity for adventure, and do what she asks. Little do they know what awaits them.
The Bear is a book that is both haunting and heartbreaking. A book that I never would have suspected would carry such a heavy message. I think it is going to stay with me for quite some time. Even though it is technically an adult book, I would feel safe recommending it to mature teen readers, as I know I would have enjoyed it as a teen as well as I did now.
Violence/Gore: A child is worried sibling is dead; a character gets poison ivy, the welts are briefly described; an adult couple is described to have been heard being attacked by an animal, screams are heard, blood is briefly mentioned; a severed foot that is bleeding is described from the perspective of a child; a scary animal is seen several times and two children are afraid of it; dead mauled bodies are described in one brief scene; a child goes missing and sibling worries; several frightening scenes involving an animal and worry about it attacking are depicted; a girl kicks at her brother and slaps him; a brief scene of a dream where a child is having her guts ripped out of her body and being killed by an animal is described; a severed foot is mentioned again with some blood; a frightening scene involving two children hiding in a cooler from an attacking animal is described in detail.
Sex/Nudity: A young boy is mentioned to be nude in a non-sexual way; a girl and a boy urinate in the forest in front of each other.
Mature Subject Matter:
Death of a parent, personal crises, frightening scenes.
Alcohol / Drug Use: