Book Review: Hatchet

By Aidan Cross, 7th Grade

At first glance Hatchet doesn’t look interesting. The cover of the book is simple and the title is the same. However, Gary Paulsen’s book might be one of the most compelling survival stories I’ve ever read, because it isn’t boring, nor is it romanticized.

Brian is a normal kid. He lives a normal life until his parents divorce, and since then something had been bothering him, and it changed him. He became quiet, timid, sad. Why? Because of a secret. The secret. The secret that led to the divorce. As Brian is preparing to travel to his father’s home, his mother gives him a gift. A hatchet to put on his belt. What at first seems like an embarrassing and silly gift ends up saving his life.

Brian is travelling to his father’s home on a bush plane when suddenly the pilot has a heart attack. The plane is thrown off course and Brian, with his limited plane flying skills he had just learned, attempts to put it back on track. But he couldn’t. Before long the engine started to fail, and the plane began to drop. The plane lands in the center of a lake after hitting a few trees and becomes mostly submerged in the water. Brian swims out of the plane and to the shore. From here on out he would never be the same again.

Brian didn’t get a chance to think about anything before being swarmed by mosquitoes. Eventually he “invents” fire using his hatchet to ward them off, finds raspberries to feed himself, and even encounters a bear. He makes a bow to shoot birds, makes a spear to stab some fish, and eventually even builds his own shelter. But a tornado tears through the lake and destroys everything; his shelter, his food, and his tools. The only thing left after this is his hatchet, but Brian knows what he has to do now. He knows how to survive. And after making tools again, gathering food, and making a raft, he finally is rescued.

Hatchet is quite the compelling read. The book is much more interesting than many other books of the genre, and is definitely more realistic than most. As Brian goes from a frail, ordinary child to a tough, experienced survivalist, the read gets more and more unique. I can fully recommend this book for it’s fantastic plot, realistic setting, and memorable story.