17 Oct 2021
Gary Paulsen passed away last week.
Hatchet was one of my favorite books growing up and I re-read it in summer 2019 both because I had been watching a lot of Alone and was working on my own young adult fiction book. I still am working on that book.
In the obituary linked above, author Daniel Gemeinhart says:
“A lot of books you read as a kid don’t stand up when you read them as an adult, but ‘Hatchet’ does.”
I could not agree with this more. Reading Hatchet again as an adult was moving. I couldn’t put it down and there really aren’t any visible traces the book was written for kids. It’s about survival, divorce, death, redemption and a ton of other evergreen themes.
The main character Brian is alone with his thoughts in the wilderness for most of it and unlike most fiction books, it doesn’t need a ton of characters and viewpoints to thrive.
Unlike a lot of books for this age group, there is some real honesty in Hatchet that serves readers well for adulthood. On my re-read I was most struck by this:
He did not know how long it took, but later he looked back on this time of crying in the corner of the dark cave and thought of it as when he learned the most important rule of survival, which was that feeling sorry for yourself didn’t work. It wasn’t just that it was wrong to do, or that it was considered incorrect. It was more than that - it didn’t work. When he sat alone in the darkness and cried and was done, all done with it, nothing had changed. His leg still hurt, it was still dark, he was still alone and the self-pity had accomplished nothing.
Damn. That still gets me. It wasn’t just that it was wrong to do, or that it was considered incorrect. It was more than that - it didn’t work.
This book still influences me. I still try to think about what works and doesn’t work in order to actually change things, even if I do get it wrong most of the time.
“Adults are locked into car payments and divorces and work,” he [Paulsen] said. “They haven’t got time to think fresh. Name the book that made the biggest impression on you. I bet you read it before you hit puberty.”
Books can make impressions on kids. Paulsen’s did when I was growing up.
Onto working on my book…