Hatchet: Book Review

Hatchet is a 1987 young adult survival novel by Gary Paulsen that switches between exciting action and melancholic thought on life’s questions. It is the first in a series of five novels, and won the 1988 Newbery Honor. Hatchet is an excellent novel for anyone, and will definitely keep you hooked!

Hatchet: Book Review

Hatchet Summary

The Crash

A thirteen year old boy named Brian Atcheson begins the book on a small, privately chartered plane to see his father, who works in the far north of the Canadian oil fields. Midway through his flight over the Canadian wild lands, the pilot suffers a heart attack, and the plane crashes into a small lake in the middle of the wilderness. Brian swims out of the wreck, the sole survivor, with nothing but a windbreaker and the hatchet his mother gave him as a parting gift.


Throughout Hatchet, Brian uses nothing but his hatchet and his wits to survive all that comes his way, including starvation, dangerous animals, a tornado, and his own thoughts. He discovers how to make fire, and crafts spears and bows through nothing but ingenuity and what he has. While completely alone in the wilderness, he ponders his parent’s divorce, and thinks of how the feelings that developed after he caught his mother cheating conflict with his love for her.


Hatchet ends shortly after a tornado passes through the area, moving the wreckage of his plane close to shore. Brian swims down to find any supplies that may be on it, and discovers an emergency radio with other tools. Using this, he is rescued and returned to his father after many months of wilderness survival.


This novel is an interesting push into the depths of survival and solitude. Reminiscent of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, it explores how a completely solitary character battles not only the elements, but also themselves. My spirits rose with Brian’s ingenious accomplishments, surviving against all odds; and I sympathized with his plights, alone with only his thoughts and his hatchet to keep him company. 


Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is an exciting and emotional read for anyone! It explores many themes and may surprise even the most experienced readers.

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