Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Book Review: Hatchet

Title: Hatchet
Author: Gary Paulsen
Release Date: 1987
Genre: young adult/children's fiction, survival
My Rating: ***
Official Rating: Young Adult Fiction
Age Group: 12+
Awards: Newbery Medal, Dorthy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award

Brian is on the way to visit his dad via plane. He's working up in Canada in some remote location, and a small charter plane is going to take Brian there for the summer. Because Brian's parents aren't together anymore. Because of the Secret. Because of what Brian knows.
Brian knows about his mother cheating with that man. He saw them kissing in the car across the street from where Brian and his friend were playing. Brian didn't tell his father, and neither did his mother. But that didn't stop the divorce from happening.
At age thirteen, that's a tough thing to handle. Honestly, at any age that's a tough thing to handle.
But when the pilot has a heart attack over an unidentifiable wilderness, and Brian does what he can to fly the plane himself, things get a whole lot worse.
Especially when Brian crashes the plane.

Word of Warning
  • Brian's parents are divorced. His mother cheated on his father (all the detail we have is that they were kissing) while they were still married.
  • A very well-known survival story, filled with the elements of survival: struggles for shelter, food, and against the elements.
  • Brian has to kill animals for food.
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, sickness in general.
  • Injuries, an attack by a moose (nothing too deadly or graphic)
  • At a very low point, Brain tries to slit his wrists. His attempt fails, and in the morning he wakes up more determined than ever to live.
  • Fighting against the elements, including a dramatic experience with a tornado.
My Thoughts
It was decent. I think my all time favorite survival book will always be Jean Craighead George's My Side of the Mountain, but this is also a pretty good book. It gets a bit long, and the writing style isn't something I'm a big fan of (particularly the sentence structure), but there's nothing necessarily wrong with it.
My biggest objection is that it just gets too long. I realize Brian was stuck in the wilderness for a long time, but I just started to lose interest after a while, especially since, knowing the genre, I had no doubt that Brian would somehow survive.
It's a rough adventure for Brian. He goes through a lot. But he makes it, and he's smart. In our ever-changing society which is becoming more and more paved, it's nice to still have a good wilderness adventure book standing strong and still being eagerly read by a variety of readers.


grandma jane said...

I am happy you read and reviewed one of Paulsen's most popular books.

At first I was surprised that you gave this book three stars out of five, (I had thought maybe 3.5 or even 4.), but then I reviewed your system definition and understood given your thoroughness of review.

It's making me smile actually, the irony --an English major looking at this book for construction, writing skill, content, etc., etc., and I realized you're absolutely right, given it's short unstructured sentences, use of language and more....

But the value of Hatchet, I think, is it's ability to pull in that reader, often like many of Paulsen's characters, who seek or are thrown into a survival challenge, are provided a mirror of sorts and a way to succeed/win. I actually think it will become a modern classic, good or not.

You mentioned My Side of the Mountain. I think of that book as a classic coming of age, survival story. Considering that My suggested reading for middle graders, I wanted to thank you for listing Hatchet as a Young Adult book (content for slightly older teens) even though the character is a young teen. Depending on where you look the book may be listed as either, but I agree that YA requires a certain maturity.

For sure both authors have a deep love of nature they manage to share while using a differing approach. I've enjoyed both immensely, and I'm old ;-D), so maybe it just depend on what you want our of a book?

Thanks for another spot-on review.

Maria Gianna said...

I find that the more I read, the pickier I get as far as what I want from a book. Not that I can't enjoy lots of different kinds of books, but that it gets harder and harder to get a five star rating from me.
I agree that the book was a huge success, and still very much is. It also has a lot of appealing qualities. But, I also tend to be a person who really doesn't like long blocks of narration, and it really tries my patience.
Overall though, I did enjoy it. It just didn't make it up there on my subjective scale. Objectively it was good, and kids seem to think so too. It was a pleasure to read more than one thing by such a well-known writer, especially in such a short amount of time.
Thanks for being such a loyal reader! It's always especially nice to have someone who has read the book to bounce things off of :)