I have always had an affinity for books about stranded protagonists. When I was in elementary school, my father brought home an abridged copy of Robinson Crusoe for me and I was enthralled. After that, I read The Island of the Blue Dolphins with such a reader's joy that I started to daydream about being whisked away to a quiet island of my own. In high school, when we read The Lord of the Flies my passion for this fend for yourself and live off your wits type of literature seemed to be unparalleled. And then, as an adult, when I read Life of Pi and found my protagonist floating in the sea with a tiger as a companion, I was, once again, at the peak of my reading fulfillment.
It got me thinking... what other books like this have I missed? When I started asking around, one title seemed to resurface again and again. It was Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Many were surprised I hadn't heard of it before given my affinity for this type of book, and even more were surprised I hadn't read it. I had put it on my infinite "to-read" list and had all but forgotten it when I stumbled upon the audiobook in my library.
This is how I finally came to read Hatchet, a book that surely would have fit in with a life long pattern of reading about lonely main characters.
In Hatchet we meet Brian, a teenager who is dealing with the recent divorce of his parents, just as he is taking a single-engine plane ride to stay with his father. The plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness leaving Brian to fend for himself with nothing but the hatchet his mother gave him attached to his belt.
From the beginning of this book I was torn about how I felt about it, but, to be honest with you, I think that had more to do with the audio production than the story itself. The particular edition of audiobook I had was produced in the nineties and it definitely sounded dated to me from the onset. How could this be? you may wonder. Well, for one, there was the music. This drove me absolutely crazy. It seemed that every time something dramatic or emotional happened to Brian, or if he thought of something that made him melancholy, some music would play in the background. I suppose this was to help set the mood. However, in my opinion, that is what the writing is for. The music actually had the complete opposite affect on me: I cracked up laughing every time it would play. I felt as though it was mocking the action of the story rather than complementing it. After a while, though, I did get used to it. I was never quite comfortable with it, but I didn't burst into hysterics each time it played.
Once I trained myself to listen beyond the music and sound effects, I found Gary Paulsen's story and writing on the other end. And, in that, I found exactly the type of story I was looking for. Brian, only 13 years old, had his own difficulties in his life in dealing with his parents' divorce and his mother's "secret," but throughout his struggle to survive he learned to put all of those things in perspective and, in turn, appreciate that which he did have.
After finishing this book, I found out that Brian's story continues in other adventures. I am tempted to continue the journey with him as he ventures back into the wilderness, but I am unsure whether I will use an audiobook option for the next read.
If you haven't already read Hatchet and you are a fan of novels which throw young protagonists into the wilds of nature to fend for themselves, then Hatchet, a Newbery Honor book, will be a fun read for you. If you are, on the other hand, looking for a fast-paced, dialogue-packed read, then I think you already know that a story about one boy in the woods just isn't going to cut it.
What are your opinions about sound effects and music in an audiobook? When/where does it belong? Does it help you in the reading to capture the mood?