Scholastic, 1987. 978-0756979119
Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is the only passenger in a small bush plane headed for the Canadian wilderness to spend the summer with his father after his parent’s divorce. He is preoccupied with thoughts of the divorce, the Secret that caused it, and his bitterness at his parent’s lawyers trying to make him understand. But when the pilot has a heart attack and the plane crashes miles off their course, Brian is left alone with only the hatchet his mother gave him to find a way to survive until he is rescued.
Why I picked it up: It was a literature unit when I was in sixth grade and I remember not caring much for it, so I decided to give it another read.
Why I finished it: While I remember why I didn’t like it – not a huge fan of survivalist literature – there’s a little more to the story than what is on the surface. Brian is trying to survive in the Canadian wilderness, for a while with the hope that he will be found soon, and then his attitude changes. Being out in the wilderness is transforming him from the naïve city boy that he is when the plane crashes into the lake into a New Brian that is learning to correct his mistakes the hard way. Brian is also coping with the aftermath of his parent’s divorce, the Secret that caused it, and the bitterness he feels toward his mother, his father, his mother’s ‘friend’ and the lawyers that were helping him understand. What struck me most about Brian’s character transformation is how selfish he is at the start of the story, how he is so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he is unable to help the pilot. With the realization that he is now being forced to provide for himself, his attitude gradually changes and so does his outlook on his situation. It is a much more intense, perhaps more realistic take on living off the land – like Survivorman – but I didn’t find it to be as interesting as some of the other books in this genre.
Other related materials: Brain’s Winter by Gary Paulsen; Brian’s Return by Gary Paulsen; The River by Gary Paulsen; Brian’s Hunt by Gary Paulsen; Dogsong by Gary Paulsen; Dancing Carl by Gary Paulsen; Sentries by Gary Paulsen; Tracker by Gary Paulsen; Canyons by Gary Paulsen; Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen; My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George; The Cay by Theodore Taylor; Holes by Louis Sachar; Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan