So, somewhere in elementary school I missed Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. I know why. I was engrossed in my Nancy Drew mysteries. Seriously. I read them all (and there are about 150 originals). So, if it wasn’t a Nancy Drew book, I ignored it. This is why I never read Hatchet, until now.
Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is on his way to visit his father when the single-engine plane in which he is flying crashes. Suddenly, Brian finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a tattered windbreker and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present — and the dreadful secret that has been tearing him apart since his parent’s divorce. But now Brian has no time for anger, self-pity, or despair — it will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed, to survive.
Of course Hatchet was awesome. It is a twentieth century classic. It’s a Newberry Award book! I finished it thinking, “Well that was just a darn good book”.
From the fist few sentences I was hooked. Paulsen’s style of writing is so clean. By clean I mean uncluttered. Paulsen only writes what is important and the reader doesn’t get bogged down with other information, because he only describes the important things. The whole time the reader is experiencing every thing right alongside Brian. From the pilot’s heart attack, to the plane crash, to the moose attack (Yes. That’s right.) I was right there beside him wondering, like Brian, if he’s going to survive on his own in the wilderness. I was so involved in Brian’s story that I found myself feeling excited and joyous whenever he made a small victory, or holding my breath when he made a mistake. Talk about engrossing!
Another aspect about Hatchet that I liked was Brian’s memories and dreams. Throughout the story Brian is alone. All by himself. No one for miles. He is forced to deal with his thoughts and memories, especially those relating to the secret about his mother. Brian isn’t only trying to survive physically, but he is also trying to survive his parents’ divorce emotionally. Both survival attempts mirror each other as the story unfolds. Brian learns that self-pity doesn’t work. In order to move beyond things, in a healthy way, is to face them head on – a lesson I can always use a reminder in!
Would I have enjoyed Hatchet as much if I’d read it when my classmates were reading it? Probably not. (Nancy Drew I only had eyes for you!) But I am so glad I finally took the time to read this modern-day classic. Middle grade readers and older who enjoy survival stories will probably love this book and anyone who hasn’t read Hatchet yet really should add it to their To Read List. I highly recommend the audiobook because the narrator, Peter Coyote, did a wonderful job (plus it’s a super fast listen).