Chasing the BearTitle: Chasing the Bear: A Young Spenser Novel
Author: Robert B. Parker
ISBN: 9780399247767
Pages: 169 pages
Publisher/Date: Philomel Books Penguin Young Readers Group, c2009.

I was hanging outside the variety store with Pearl and some guys when Luke Haden’s car pulled up at the stoplight, with Jeannie in the front seat. I had never seen her riding with her father before. She saw me through the rolled-up window and mouthed the word HELP at me. HELP. HELP. I started toward the car and the light changed and the car moved forward. (33)

Fans of Robert Parker can now have a glipse at the childhood of his well-known private-eye Spenser in Chasing the Bear. Spenser flashes back to when he was 14 years old, and his classmate Jeannie has been taken by her abusive father into the woods. Rather than go for help from his father and two uncles, Spenser sets off with his dog Pearl to rescue her. He also has to deal with a racial war brewing in his home town between the Mexican and American students.

Bouncing back and forth between Spenser and his wife and Spenser’s past, it’s an great introduction for people who have never read the Spenser series, like myself. However, I don’t think teens will pick this book up on their own. This seems to be written with the adult readers in mind, with banter from Spenser and his wife Susan cutting in and out of the narrative at sometimes odd points in the story. The stories don’t really work together without it, because it is Susan who draws the correlation between the relatively short vignette about hunting with his father, the lengthier rescue of Jeannie, and finally the involvement in community racial tensions. Susan being a psychiatrist, their conversations read as an intimate interview, which adults might get more out of. That being said, the action is there, if interupted, and teens might pick it up for the interesting cover. But I highly doubt that they’re going to be familiar with the character or the author.