Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hatchet and Hope

There is something about survival stories that draws me in, and I think it is about reducing (or expanding?) to the basic elements and needs of life - shelter, warmth, food, and the human instinct to survive.  Gary Paulsen writes young adult fiction that often focuses on coming of age stories in the wilderness.  Hatchet is Paulsen's 1987 Newbery Honor-winning novel that tells the story of thirteen year-old Brian Robeson.  Brian is the only passenger of a small plane flying from New York to Canada, to visit his father.  His parents have recently divorced, which Brian is grappling with as he flies toward his father's home.  While in the air, the pilot has a heart attack and dies, and Brian is left to figure out how to land the plane and then survive in the wilderness.  The novel tells of his despair, resourcefulness, and self-sufficiency.  Brian comes up against many challenges of the natural world, such as sharing his new environment with wild animals (beavers, moose, bears, wolves, skunks, etc.), weathering a tornado,combating loneliness, and making it through each day with enough food and a well stoked fire.  While there is something rather formulaic about fictionalized survival stories, I enjoyed the novel and found each challenge that Brian must face to be interesting and I was always wondering how he would overcome everything thrown at him.  After nearly two months in the wilderness, Brian reflects that he becomes a new version of himself.  I am not ultimately a huge fan of young adult fiction, but this is a readable and engrossing tale.

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