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Book Review of Hatchet

A few weeks ago I wrote a review of My Side of the Mountain. As I mentioned in that review, I was so underwhelmed at the beginning of reading it, that I checked out reviews on its Amazon page, most notably the minority 1 star reviews. Many of those naysayers compared it to Hatchet, saying Hatchet was the better book. Well I just happened to also have a copy of Hatchet on the home bookshelf, so Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, became my next read.

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Let’s start by saying these two books are drastically different. Drastically. About the only thing they have in common are boy protagonists of about the same age living temporarily in the wilderness. Everything else is different. Sam Gribley (My Side of the Mountain) runs off to live in the wild on his own accord and comes and goes to a nearby town whenever he needs to. He has educated himself on how to survive and though much of what he accomplishes is a little hard to believe, he gets by well and it’s a happy story. He remains in the wilderness for a full year, through all four seasons.

In Hatchet, on the other hand, Brian Robeson is the sole survivor of an airplane crash after the pilot has a massive heart attack. Brian knows nothing about living in the wild, but manages to survive a couple of months. But it’s very difficult and with not a lot of happy moments.

The writing styles of the two books are also vastly different. Paulsen uses a lot of very long sentences without even a breath for commas in some instances, helping to create tension, whereas the style and vocabulary of Mountain is much simpler. What I thought a little unusual was that Hatchet was told in third person, whereas, Mountain is in first person. I think if Hatchet were written today it would be in first person present tense which has been so popular recently, but which I personally hate. 

An example of the Hatchet writing:

And there was the tenderness in her voice that she had when he was small, the tenderness that she had when he was small and sick, with a cold, and she put her hand on his forehead, and the burning came into his eyes again and he had turned away from her and looked out the window, forgotten the hatchet on his belt and so arrived at the plane with the hatchet still on his belt.

From My Side of the Mountain:

I looked at the tree. Somehow I knew it was home, but I was not quite sure how it was home. The limbs were high and not right for a tree house. I could build a bark extension around it, but that would look silly. Slowly I circled the great trunk.

My opinion: Both books are worth the read. I think My Side of the Mountain is better for younger readers. Hatchet has some harrowing scenes such as the plane crash and Brian later viewing the fish-eaten head of the dead pilot underwater that might bother younger kids. For me, I definitely enjoyed My Side of the Mountain more.

What do you think? Have you read Hatchet? Feel free to comment below. Oh, and don’t forget, in honor of World Read Aloud Day this week I’m hosting a giveaway for a free audiobook of Seed Savers-Treasure. Sign up here.

Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed SaversVisit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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