Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is a riveting novel about Brian Robeson, a thirteen year old boy whose parents are recently divorced. He flies to Canada in a small plane to see his father. During the flight, the pilot has a heart attack, dooming the plane to a messy crash. Being the only other person on the plane, Brian takes control of the plane, and unsurprisingly crashes it (duh). Fortunately, he manages to land into a lake, and escapes with only bruises.
After overcoming his shock, he gets to work building a shelter and collecting berries. In his hand is his trusty hatchet, given to him by his mother. Over the next few months, Brian defies all odds, surviving in the wilderness alone. He hunts for fish, makes fire, and scavenges food. Eventually, rescuers to come, but he misses his window of opportunity. Undoubtedly, Brian’s confidence and spirit is shaken. Eventually, he manages to turn his deteriorating resolve, and faces his new challenges with confidence. He hunts and constructs tools, along with the occasional excitement of a moose or skunk attack. Still, knowing he’s only thirteen, we can’t help but admire his clear thinking and determination.
Paulsen’s book is as much a thrilling adventure as it is philosophical. Brian’s woes are not depicted as tiny trifles the hero has to overcome. Brian faces each problem with the same mindset that a normal person does. We know his thoughts, turmoil, and desperation every day. This makes it easier to connect with him as a reader, knowing he’s an average kid rather than a superhero. Also, his physical challenges are just as hard as they would be in real life. Build a raft with logs? Easier said than done. A sense of realism gives the story a more exciting feel.
Overall, this book will be enjoyable for everyone. The vocabulary and structure aren’t difficult, so younger kids can read it. All the same, teens and adults will enjoy it for both its simplicity and detail. Give it a try! When you’re done, there’s an alternate ending and a sequel waiting for you.
-Phillip X., 8th grade