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SPIRITED by Nancy Holder

SPIRITED

By Nancy Holder

Age Range: 12 - 16

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-689-87063-9
Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Holder’s colonial “captured-by-Indians” romance is thoroughly dispiriting. She bills it as an homage to Last of the Mohicans (the book and the movie), and as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, suggesting that the hero’s “Indianess” is a disfiguring spell. (Of course, the heroine finds that “His profile was rather . . . noble, actually.”) Replete with “dark eyes” that “gleam” and women who scream a lot, the story sticks consistently to the bestial theme. Holder has combined cultural elements of several Indian nations, ending up with an unrecognizable mishmash. Her Makiawisug (“Little People” of Mohegan stories) are Shakespearean Tinkerbells, and her “shaman” is a cross between an ER doctor and a Unitarian minister leading a séance. In presenting such a blind, backward and degrading view of a culture, Holder undermines all other elements of her story, which include a predictable and slow-moving romance with ridiculous dialogue and a startling magical theme that crops up at the end. Readers may well experience this effort as the heroine experiences battle: “She couldn’t believe what she was seeing—the cruelty, the barbarism. She was screaming, “ ‘Stop! Stop! but no one did.’ ” (Fiction. 12-16)