Saturday, September 10, 2011

Book Review: The River by Gary Paulsen

So I read book 2 in the Hatchet series, which I initially skipped in favor of Book 3 (it's okay if you read them in that order.) It is good, but it is also very short, almost too short.

Brian is asked by some military men if he will go back into the woods, with them, for them to learn from him how he did what he did to survive in Hatchet. He agrees, and the trip is set for Brian and Derek, the psychologist to return to a similar lake in the Northern wilds of Canada. But when they arrive, Brian doesn't want the tent and the radio and the flashlights and all the other gear he didn't have on his initial trip (in fact, they don't even bring a hatchet as it's unlikely anyone else would have the good fortune he did to happen to be carrying one.) While he does compromise on the radio - and Derek's research materials - he gets his way and the experiment is on. But shortly it goes terribly wrong and Brian has to make a risky journey down the river to save Derek.

It's interesting that just when things go wrong, is when Brian says, there's no tension. Ironically, that was true in the narrative as well so it's almost ironic for the main character to point that out. I didn't mind the organizing and planning parts (although the girlfriend seemed kind of pointless). But it felt a little unbalanced. There was little to no action at all for the first 2/3, and then nonstop action racing through to the last page. Also, it felt overly short - I'd have liked the author to spend more time with Brian on the raft, so we would also really feel his exhaustion and anxiety. It was good, but it could have been more. But a typical 12-year-old boy is unlikely to pick up on that at all. He might simply say he wished the exciting bit on the raft were longer, but it'll be enough for him.

It was interesting at the beginning, to hear about the repercussions from The Time. How Brian is now a gourmet cook, how he listens to the birds, how he went to the mall and forced himself to endure the noise and the crowds in order to reacclimate himself to everyday life. Those few months forever changed his life, and he'll never really reacclimate, you can tell. But not in a bad way. He isn't now scarred and maladjusted - he just values different things and notices different things that typical teenagers, and I think he'll make thoughtful and considered decisions about everything for the rest of his life. He's never going to be carefree and thoughtless again, and while some might mourn the end of innocence and childhood, I think he's learned a valuable lesson that today's kids often don't learn until adulthood, if even then. Mature and confidant and appreciative, Brian is an excellent role model.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I checked this book out of the library.

1 comment:

Julie P. said...

You're right, these books aren't very long. I just need to take an afternoon and read them.