On Saturday, I went to a book sale at Books a Million in Waco. The store was closing, so I got everything for 20-30% off. I ended up with tons of stuff. Some I picked because I knew they would be good, but I picked two stories that I really had no idea about. Hatchet was the first one.
Author: Gary Paulsen
Year Published: 1987
Genre: Realism? I got a Lord of the Flies vibe from it, kind of; so, I’m not sure really.
Morality Rating: PG
Readablity Rating: 4 stars
13 year-old Brian Robeson is traveling by plane to spend the summer with his father in Canada, when the pilot has a heart attack and the plane goes down somewhere in the Canadian woods. Will Brian be able to survive the wild with nothing more than his hatchet?
This story of survival has a feeling of realism that most others do not (it felt a lot more real, than say, The Hunger Games). This is probably due to the fact that the author had many of the experiences listed in the book. Writing doesn’t lie: If you don’t know what you are talking about, you will never write about as well as if you do.
Plot: I was excited by this plot. Recently I have been interested in the idea of fully living off the land with nothing more than my wits. This story gives some insight into what that might be like. I appreciated the realism in the story, and like I said before, it was probably because the author had real experience with wilderness survival. I was a little sad it ended so abruptly.
Characters: Basically the only character in this story is Brian. He thinks about his mother a lot, and how angry he is at her for cheating on his dad, but other than that, it’s Brian’s thoughts alone. I don’t know that I would like Brian as a person, but I liked how he changed over time.
Setting: The setting for this adventure was the Canadian wilderness. I have never been there, but from the descriptions in the book, I imagined it to look something like the wilderness from Far From Home, which as it turns out, was filmed in Canada. So good job on that.
Writing Style: There is something fundamentally different between a man’s writing and a woman’s. I have yet to place my finger on it, but this story is all male. The writing was good. I did not cringe once when reading the story, which has been rare for me recently. 🙂 I liked how there is very little dialogue in the book, but you don’t miss it at all.
Hatchet won a Newberry Honor award, so I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not. Newberry books are often chosen because they are different and “real,” and I often don’t like only realism in children’s stories. But it turns out, this was a good book all around. As I was reading, I kept thinking, “this book is really well-written.” Sadly, I haven’t thought that about a book in a while (probably because I’ve been reading more self-published books lately). This book is also older, from a time when there were less publishing companies. Anyway, although the style of the book wasn’t my favorite, I really enjoyed the book anyway. My only complaint is that it ended too soon. One minute the boy is living it up on the beach, and within about 3 pages the book ends. I would have liked to see him survive for a full year at least.
Apparently, so did other people. Because Paulsen went on to write several alternative universe stories for Brian. 🙂