Friday, April 9, 2010

Hatchet - Gary Paulsen

If you're in the mood for a good wilderness survival story, then pick up a copy of Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. It was a Newbery Honor winner and 1987 and well deserved. There's no farfling around. Paulsen grabs you immediately in the first chapter, checks you for survival skills and then takes you on an intense adventure. Suddenly, you find yourself flung out the other side of the book and you wonder what happened.

I get annoyed with a lot of books that pad out word count with non-relevant descriptions. For example:

Tanya cut the sandwich in half. "Where did they find the body?" she asked, handing one half to Ashley and then licking her fingers.

"In the dumpster by the school," Ashley replied, taking a large bite of the hamburger, a little ketchup getting caught at the corner of her mouth.

"Talk about taking out the trash," Tanya said, slowly chewing a bite of her burger, contemplatively. She took a sip of her ice tea and then took another bite.

This is paraphrasing a scene I read a few months ago and all I could think of was, "Stop it! I don't want to hear a bite by bite description of your boring lunch! Get to the damn point!"

Paulsen wastes none of your time with that kind of nonsense. There are descriptions, but they are relevant descriptions that build the scene. In my opinion, it makes the book a lot more suspenseful. Yes, it also makes the book shorter, but you don't get bogged down by filler.


  1. I remember reading that book years ago when I was substitute teaching. It was pretty good, if memory serves. And I'm totally with you on the irrelevant descriptions. I think that's one reason I love comics so much. You don't have to bother with any of that.

    But yeah, Hatchet is good stuff.

  2. I just read The Time Hackers by Paulsen. Not quite as good as Hatchet, but still very enjoyable. Turns out there are a couple of sequels to Hatchet. I requested the next one from the library. I'm interested to see if Paulsen can maintain the intensity of the first novel.