“Hatchet” by Gary Paulson

“Hatchet” by Gary Paulson is a Newberry Honor Award survival story. Usually I find survival stories to be unrealistic and almost ridiculous, yet Paulson has defined a plot that is both satisfying and very true to life.

The story’s main character is Brian, a young teen with divorced parents. His father works in Alaska. While flying to visit his father for the summer, the plane’s pilot has a heart attack and dies, leaving Brian to face an emergency crash landing in Canada’s North Woods. Brian’s only tool is belt slung hatchet that his mother gave him as a present just before he left.

Throughout the story the depictions of Brian’s emotions are very realistic. From initial terror to hope that the rescuers will find him, from depression and a suicide attempt to determination, Brian’s reaction to his plight are believable. For example, in Paulson’s down to earth, solid writing style, we are told of Brian’s response to a rescue plane flying over and not noticing him:

“When the plane had come and gone it had put him down, gutted him and dropped him and left him with nothing. The rest of that first day he had gone down and down until dark. He had let the fire go out… had let his brain take him down to where he was done, where he wanted to be done and done.

To where he wanted to die. He had settled into the gray funk deeper and deeper and still deeper until finally, in the dark, he had gone up on the ridge and taken the hatchet and tried to end it by cutting himself.

Madness. A hissing madness that took his brain. There had been nothing for him then and he had tried to become nothing but the cutting had been hard to do, impossible to do, and he had at last fallen to his side, wishing for death, wishing for an end, and slept only didn‘t sleep.

With his eyes closed and his mind open he lay on the rock through the night, lay and hated and wished for it to end and thought the word, Clouddown, Clouddown through that awful night. Over and over the word, wanting all his clouds to come down, but in the morning he was still there.

Still there on his side, and when the sun came up and when he opened his eyes he saw the cuts on his arm, the dry blood turning black; he saw the blood, and he hated the blood, hated what he had done to himself when he was the old Brian and was weak, and two things came into his mind-two true things…

He was not the same and would never be again like he had been. That was one of the true things, the new things. And the other one was that he would not die, he would not let death in again.”

Throughout the story Paulson’s deep and emotional writing style characterize the story and reveal Paulson’s own worldview through the eyes of his character Brian. “Hatchet” is a valuable and memorable read not only for its fantastic plot, but also for its unique writing style.

Inkweaver Book Rating:





For other books by Gary Paulson see:

The Rifle

The Voyage of the Frog

Your Rating:
Inkweaver Review 2008-03-27T09:26:00-05:00

7 replies so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

i just want to know if its a realistic fiction or non fiction

NathanKP said...

"Hatchet" is realistic fiction. To the best of my knowledge and the research that I have done Gary Paulson did not base the story on a real life incident.

Anonymous said...

is this an adventure book or realistic fiction?

Anonymous said...

ok i wont use profammitee mommy

Anonymous said...

is this realistic fiction

Brittney Franklin said...

is this historic fiction

Brittney Franklin said...

i need it for a project but it has to be historic fiction