Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Book Review: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Things to know up front...

Recommended to: young readers, lovers of survival stories, kids that don't usually read

Rating (as a Children's Book): 7.5/10

Rating (as just your average book): 5/10


  • Near the beginning a man has a heart attack, which leads up to a plane crashing. It's possible that this could be intense for some young readers.
  • Someone attempts to take his own life. However, this is glossed over; there were maybe five sentences used to talk about it. 
  • There's a pretty gross description of a dead body. Even grosser is the fact that a character pukes while underwater after seeing this, and then sucks some of it back in. Ew. 
  • No profanity.
  • No sexual content whatsoever. 
  • Easy to read; few examples of challenging vocabulary. 
  • Overall, it's a suitable read for any age of young readers, as long as they have the reading skills to match. 
Hatchet tells the story of Brian Robeson, who is stranded in the Canadian wilderness after a plane crash. He is forced to fend for himself and deal with the many obstacles that nature and his own mental state throw at him. 

The Positives:

-The writing style. I know that the endless fragments drive some people batty, but I appreciated them. They gave the book a little bit of "oomph" and make it stick out. In addition to this, it just seems like writing style that matches the thought process of a teenager, especially a stranded one. 

-The survival story. All in all, it was pretty believable. Paulsen never gave Brian too much of an advantage when it came to tools, other than the hatchet, which his mother gave him before he left. Obviously she's a little off her rocker. The way that Brian came to grow his survival skills also seemed natural; I liked that Paulsen didn't make him some former boy scout who would know what he was doing and instead gave us a typical kid that didn't know much beyond the basics. 

The Negatives:

-Brian. Honestly, the kid defines the term "static character", even though he supposedly "changed" after a certain incident. Yet, do you think I saw that in the story? Nope. I was told that, and never really convinced of it because there's nothing to demonstrate this change. The only change I really saw in Brian was that he sucked less at catching food. Riveting. 

-The ending. Let's just say that things get ridiculously convenient after they already get ridiculously convenient. I didn't like that there wasn't a speck of delay between said events. 

-"The Secret." Brian mentions The Secret a handful of times near the beginning-ish of the book, and then any allusions to it kind of taper off--but hold on!--because Paulsen is going to mention it in the very last sentence, making it feel very significant! And I don't mean to spoil the experience for you, but inside your head you're going to be thinking, O-kaaay. Now why was that important? I think this was an attempt at depth, but it failed miserably. Stick to what you're good at, Gary, writing in fragments.

-The timeline (or better yet, lack thereof). I had no idea when anything was happening. I could barely tell whether or not something happened in the second week in, or the second month. Seriously, did First Meat happen early on, or later? I believe that the story takes place across a span of 54 days (or something like that) and it felt like two weeks because events were just strung together and never given much order! Gah!

-It was BORING. Look, it's still a quick and easy read, but just isn't very interesting. The reason you keep turning the pages is because they take like 2 seconds to get through. I think that perhaps the monotony is due to the lack of emotional connection to Brian's actions, but hey, I'll just drop it. 


Well, I didn't really like it. However, this would be a great book for elementary aged students, and even older students that aren't huge fans of reading. Or, you know, if you're like me and sometimes you just read a book to, say, help complete your Goodreads reading goal expand your reading horizons, and you just want something easy, go ahead a pick it up; I hope you enjoy it more than I did!

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