Children's Literature - Patrick Hunter
Parker tries and fails to adapt the highly successful "Spenser" franchise for young adults. Bear is two stories from Spencer's teen years with a little mix of his childhood thrown in, the later serving to try and achieve some development of character. Told in flashback, Spenser relates to his current girlfriend, Susan, how in his youth, he tracked and rescued his friend Jeannie after she had been kidnapped by her alcoholic father. The second story, again in flashback, details how Spenser offered protection to a Mexican boy in his town and refused to take sides in what amounts to a racist gang war amongst the youth in Spenser's hometown. This flashback could have been called "Mid-West Side Story." The main problem with Parker's adaptation of Spenser as a youth is that Spenser is fully developed as Spenser in his youth: he is tough; talks the no-nonsense of other hard-boiled gumshoes; he takes risks without too much thought or emotion; in short, he is not young Spenser as billed on the books cover, but rather, mini-Spenser. The age has changed and the stories are slightly different, but the character and theme is the same. The purpose of creating a younger version of a beloved character is to see the character before he or she developed into who you are familiar with now. Parker does not do this. There is little to give us a look into what makes the Spenser of today tick; how he got to be this way. Had we seen a little more of that, then Bear would be something worth reading. As it is, save it only for when you have gone through all the other mysteries of your bookshelf or just read a regular Spenser novel. Reviewer: Patrick Hunter
Parker introduces young readers to private investigator Spenser, star of his bestselling adult novels, at age 14. Short chapters and Spenser's signature quick-fire delivery propel the story, which reveals the ways young Spenser uses the survival skills and scruples passed on to him by his loving, wise father and the two uncles who are raising him in a small town ("They took turns with everything.... So none of them got ground down, so to speak, by being the only parent"). Knowing when to defend himself and when to run away comes in handy when the teen encounters a black bear in the woods, rescues his friend from her drunken, gun-toting father and is ambushed by a gang of racist thugs after he protects a bullied Mexican peer. The narrative alternates between the youth's adventures and the reminiscences of an adult Spenser, who appears with his longtime love interest, Susan, in less compelling, present-day chapters in which he-at her prodding-offers insight into his past. Carefully tempered emotion, full-throttle suspense and subtle humor should win Parker's (Edenville Owls) detective enthusiastic new fans. Ages 12-up. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
A clean, sharp jab of a read.
VOYA - Walter Hogan
Parker's second young adult novel, following Edenville Owls (Sleuth/Penguin, 2007/VOYA June 2007), is a prequel to the author's famous Spenser series, now totaling three dozen adult crime thrillers. Here the hard-boiled Boston private detective recollects episodes from his childhood and early teen years, at the request of his lady friend, Susan. Readers learn that Spenser lost his mother at an early age and that he was raised by his father and two uncles, who modeled a strong male code of ethics while instructing the lad in the culinary and pugilistic arts. Most action occurs during Spenser's fifteenth year. After bravely rescuing his classmate, Jeannie, from her violent, drunken father, he finds himself in a tricky romantic entanglement. Then, having defending a Mexican boy from bullies, he is caught up in a local rivalry between white and Mexican gangs. These conflicts call on Spenser for just those qualities that will make him such an appealing character as an adult: chivalry towards women, rejection of bigotry, independent judgment, and a readiness to use his fists in defense of those values. For fans of the adult Spenser novels and television episodes, this book is a treasure trove of new stories about the formative years of a renowned fictional heroalthough he still has no first name. Through Susan's probing questions and Spenser's responses, readers get a clear picture of how the boy evolved into the man. It is a superb choice for reluctant male readers, with short chapters, snappy dialogue, and plenty of physical action. Reviewer: Walter Hogan
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Parker's well-known detective hero, Spenser, reminisces to his beloved wife, Susan, about his Western childhood and workingman values bestowed upon him by his father and two uncles. The flashbacks derive from the lad's motherless household, in which Spenser is encouraged to throw punches at his uncles, who were accomplished boxers, and to learn how to defend himself against bullies. In another memory, young Spenser comes face to face with an angry black bear while bird hunting and stands his ground, though he is ultimately saved by his father's more powerful gun. This incident mentally prepares him for the dramatic tracking and rescue of a friend who was abducted by her abusive and alcoholic father. Parker's portrayal of Spenser's bravado in facing the bowie knife-wielding individual and escaping downriver is a compelling page-turner, and the man's demise shocking. This glimpse into the past explains much of the adult Spenser's backbone, though the stop-and-reflect method of storytelling may appeal more to adults than to teens who like their action uninterrupted, such as in his Edenville Owls (Philomel, 2007). Parker's dialogue-driven style and spare vocabulary are comparable to Gary Paulsen's The Beet Fields (Delacorte, 2000).—Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY