Book Review: Hatchet

by Gary Paulsen

Reviewed by Andreanna Wright, age 12

Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is on a plane to his father’s house when the pilot has a heart attack. Suddenly, Brian is stuck in the Canadian wilderness with the crashed plane and a dead pilot. He is all alone with only the hatchet his mother gave him for his birthday. Dreams haunt him at night about “the secret” his mother holds, and whether or not he should tell his father.

Sadness, guilt and fright are not options for Brian. He will have to face his fears and learn how to survive, using all of his courage and instinct. Struggling to stay alive, Brian finds his own food and learns to live on his own, while facing dire obstacles.

One of his most dangerous experiences is retrieving the survival backpack from the plane, which had sunk into a nearby lake. First Brian builds a raft so he can float on it. Then he dives down twice to locate the plane. He sees the decomposed pilot still buckled into his seat, with fish picking at his remains. Putting aside his fears, he dives for a third time. When he gets to the pilot, he spots the backpack and yanks three times to break it loose. Trying not to drown, he swims up to the surface. Exhausted, Brian paddles back to his shelter victoriously with the backpack.

I couldn’t put Hatchet down. I axiously read on to find out what “the secret” was. I loved the suspense and the life lessons about perseverance and the message: don’t give up on yourself. For example, Brian has to make a fire to keep himself warm and to cook his food. He has no experience at how to make a fire, but is determined to do so. Brian tries for many days, never giving up. Eventually a spark from his hatchet turns into a small flame.

This story shows the importance of believing in yourself because a situation might arise that forces you to do things you normally aren’t prepared for. The consequences could be grave if you don’t try. I would recommend this book for middle school students.