Described by readers as The Seven Samurai meets The Fugitive for young adults

The 89th Temple book by Charlie Canning

The 89th Temple

For more than fifty years, William Golding's classic Lord of the Flies has been the default book on bullying for the language arts classroom. While that is unlikely to change,
The 89TH Temple, set on a Buddhist pilgrimage in Japan, is an updated multicultural look at the subject of bullying complete with school sports and field trips, cell phones and blogs, reform schools and electronic surveillance. Whether readers are working in an office or studying in a classroom, they will find plenty to identify with here.

On the island of Shikoku in Japan, there is a pilgrimage of 88 temples. Once an ascetic rite of passage for monks, it has become a more generalized ritual of penance and spiritual rejuvenation for troubled souls. Seven juvenile offenders on leave from various reform schools are doing the 1,300-kilometer pilgrimage on foot with a counselor and assigned wardens from the state. The youth are under strict observation with at least one supervisor with them at all times. When the seven finish the pilgrimage, they will be released. Will they rejoin society or leave it behind?


Educators and Parents - Use this book to teach how bullying affects youths and adults alike!


Purchase from Amazon


Purchase on Audible


Purchase from Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Purchase from Barnes & Noble


Purchase from Amazon

Written by an English teacher for English teachers, The 89TH Temple can help you address the issue of bullying, school culture, and societal pressure and norms in your classroom and community.

"Absorbing and harrowing, capturing the more ominous aspects of the society it describes. The reader is immersed in the situation from the outset and kept there till the end. Powerfully realized and tellingly paced."

- Ciaran Murray, Author, The Secret Adventures of Sherlock Holmes


  • 2013: Finalist, Reader's Favorite Award
  • 2013: Runner-Up, Southern California Book Festival
  • 2013: Notable Book, Shelf Unbound Competition for Indie Books


(photo by Tokihito Igata)

Why The 89TH Temple?

  • Updated look on bullying complete with cell phones, social media, school blogs, sports and field trips
  • Multiple characters and multiple points of view offering closer identification for young and old
  • Written by a classroom teacher with ten years of teaching experience in Japanese schools
  • Submitted as part of a PhD degree in creative writing at the University of Adelaide
  • Story is told in clear, direct language that is easy to understand
  • Written for an international audience of both native and non-native speakers of English
  • A Japanese novel in English that offers a unique view of Japanese culture
  • Careful characterization and plotting that highlights points for discussion and writing including the individual vs. society, gender and societal norms, interpersonal conflict and resolution, and contrasting role models and life goals
  • Plenty of meaningful content that can be utilized to meet the Common Core State Standards in imaginative and thought-provoking ways

What readers are saying...

The 89TH Temple is a thought provoking , suspenseful, beautifully crafted novel. The story explores the minds of the perpetrators and victims of bullying amidst the complexities of Japanese culture and society but then takes the reader along for the temple walks to experience the healing potential and spirituality of nature. The character development is so strong here you would know these folks if they walked into a room. And you'll be on their journeys with them, every step of the way."


"This was an incredible read. I was drawn into it right from the start. I found the characters very intriguing. This story is so relevant to students today and all the bullying that takes place. I would recommend this book to anyone, especially those working with young adults."


"I loved this book.


This is a story about a group of teenagers trying to move past the stigma of their convictions for serious crimes they committed against their tormentors as a result of having been bullied. The novel moves seamlessly between the present, during which the teens take a supervised journey as part of their rehabilitation, and the past, in which their crimes and the events leading up to them are revealed.


I was reminded of Ann Patchett's Bel Canto, both for this book's similarly beautiful characterization of Japanese social mores, as well how fluidly the reader is transported back and forth across time. The author's descriptions of his characters are rich and full, making each memorable for his or her part in the unfolding drama of the book. This story, although taking place in a constrained Japanese milieu, reminds us that bullying and its traumatic aftershocks transcends culture."


"The 89TH Temple rings authenticity through and through. It encapsulates the human condition far beyond the borders of Japan. Every character is believable, flawed yes, but they leap off the page in rawness and life.


The tragic consequences of bullying are narrated without sentimentality and this makes them all the more poignant and disturbing. The author does not shy away from the culture of suicide, the tyranny of loss of faith and the unconscionable bond between its main characters: seven convicted teenage murderers.


The writer, however, is generous with bright episodes of humour, kindness, courage, cut-glass honesty and disarming pathos. I loved the descriptions of the Japanese landscape and how it moulds the spiritual architecture of its people.


The novel is delightfully readable and in spite of its sombre themes, it is rich in optimism and hope."


About Charlie Canning ...

Author Charlie Canning
Author Charlie Canning on his pilgrimage to the 88 Temples (photo by Hirota Takeo)


Charlie Canning, Ph.D. is a Maine writer who taught English for 10 years in Japanese universities. His fast-paced, character-driven novels explore the conscious and unconscious decisions people make when faced with the oftentimes unimaginable stress of everyday life. Canning is a passionate observer and writes about how society and culture differ from one region to another as well as how society constrains and informs behavior. His engaging writing style delivers a thorough and thought-provoking exploration of his subject matter, which ultimately revolves around the battle between good and evil, sin and redemption.


On a personal level, Charlie Canning is a spiritual seeker who believes in the power of the spirit. He is interested in the role the spirit plays in the redemptive process and explores this theme in his writing. According to Canning, one's ultimate purpose is to answer the question, "Who or what do you choose to lead your life?"


Contact Charlie directly by email. Follow him on  89th Temple on Facebook. Visit his website.

Help Young People Understand the Seriousness of Bullying


Purchase from Amazon


Purchase from Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Purchase from Barnes & Noble



Purchase from Amazon


Purchase from iTunes

Barnes & Noble

Purchase from Barnes & Noble