Book review by
Jessica Pierce, Common Sense Media
Hatchet Book Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Hold on tight for an intense tale of survival.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 50 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 133 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

This school-assigned read is fast-paced and intense. It shows, rather than tells, just how unforgiving nature can be.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Brian starts out stubborn with a bad attitude, but he is forced to be brave, hardworking and careful to survive.  The story charts his personal growth in the face of an incredible challenge -- to survive.


The main character kills various wild animals in order to feed and defend himself. Brian's life is constantly at risk. Readers are held in suspense by Brian's fight to survive.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Gary Paulsen's Hatchet is an intense, fast, exciting read. The main character is a 13-year-old boy whose parents are divorced. He survives a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness en route to visit his father and must use the hatchet his mother once gave him to stay alive. Many kids report that this is the first school-assigned book they fell in love with.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 6 and 9-year-old Written bymcdolins August 2, 2011

Adult issues involved

To be honest, I am disappointed that this book is regarded so highly. Although it is well-written and I am sure that my almost-10-year-old will love the advent... Continue reading
Adult Written byDanielle S. November 3, 2017

As a reader and a teacher

I have read the comments about this book and I am somewhat shocked at the fact so many people think the books themes are inappropriate. Yes, the book does talk... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byCheechee_Runner December 6, 2015


I know it's hard to write a book about surviving alone. But this is EXTREMELY boring. I am truly sorry to say that, Paulsen. Talk about getting berries for... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byNoseBleed April 26, 2011

I didn't like it but you might! :)

I thought that Hatchet was an okay book. The story line was somewhat boring in places and didn’t have any strong characters. Yes, Brian was there and you got... Continue reading

What's the story?

A city boy is stranded in the Canadian wilderness, equipped with nothing but a hatchet and the clothes on his back. Readers get a riveting view of Brian's struggle to survive for the next two months, forever changing his attitude toward the twentieth-century civilization to which he is eventually returned.

Is it any good?

Muscular prose, plus an accurate depiction of the necessities of survival from an author who has lived the details, makes this a riveting, intelligent read. HATCHET has won dozens of awards and appears on many summer-reading lists -- and for good reason. In the end, the book is a fascinating thrill that will keep readers mesmerized to the last page.

Gary Paulsen does not romanticize the difficulties Brian faces. Readers witness his gut-wrenching sickness from eating too many berries and his shock when he realizes he has never before heard total silence. His failures and triumphs are also presented as equal parts of one life-altering experience. In the two months he spends in the wild, Brian undergoes countless emotional and physical changes. But Paulsen keeps the reader at Brian's side as he discovers how strong he has always been.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Brian's failures and triumphs and how they change his attitude and viewpoint.

  • Do you think you could survive if you were in the same situation?

  • Is there anything Brian did that you might have done differently?

  • What was the most terrifying part of his experience, in your opinion?

Book details

  • Author: Gary Paulsen
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: January 1, 1987
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
  • Number of pages: 195
  • Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
  • Last updated: August 31, 2020

Our editors recommend

For kids who love adventure

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