Thursday, October 2, 2014

Classics Review: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Premise: When 13 year-old Brian finds himself stranded and alone in the North Canadian wilderness, he struggles against nature to keep himself alive.

Title: Hatchet
Author: Gary Paulsen
Length: 186 pages
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Series or Stand Alone: Book 1 in Brian's Saga (5 books)
Content appropriate for: Grades 4-8
Format: Paperback from classroom library

Three adjectives that describe this book: adventurous, predictable, easy-to-read

I am in the middle of the Classics Club challenge to read 50 classics books in 5 years. My list is comprised entirely of children's books.

When I read Hatchet in 5th grade, I loved it. This time around, I really enjoyed the first half, but struggled with the ending. Brian's crash and first days of survival are palpable. The images in Paulsen's writing are clear and meaningful. The whole thing feels dangerous and immediate.

Then about halfway in, Paulsen decided to skip ahead 40 days and tell everything in flashback-y snapshots. This sudden shift really caught me off guard. I struggled with it. The tone slowed down, and so did the sense of near-death danger that was making Hatchet so great.

Finally, the very end is so sudden and cut short that it felt a bit like Paulsen got tired of his own story. We're going along with survival in the woods and then BAM a rescue plane appears and all is well in a neat little package.

So basically, I would give the first third of the book a near 5 stars, but it just goes downhill from there.

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