Jul 12, 2013

The River

by Gary Paulsen

A book I really liked as a kid was The Hatchet (I think I still have a copy). I noticed Paulsen had written a few companion volumes to the book, so gave them a try also (several years ago). In The River, our protagonist Brian -a teenager- is now famous for how he survived solo in the wilderness and has been hired by government men to re-enact his escapade in the woods so they can learn his techniques. Brian gets dropped off once again into the northern wilderness, but this time with a back-up team and some supplies. He convinces his adult companion to ditch the supplies, on the grounds that they won't be forced to really survive on what they can find in the woods if easier goods are within reach. But then disaster strikes, Brian finds himself nearly alone again (the other guy incapacitated) and in a moment of desperation builds a raft to try and move downriver to reach help.

So it did end up being a similar type of survival story, with river rapids and an injured companion to haul around thrown in. But the story didn't speak to me nearly as well. I still recall vividly many parts of The Hatchet, especially the psychological stress the kid went through, the encounters with wild animals and unflinching weather. In this later book, things weren't quite so raw. It didn't feel as real, either. Too pat. Plus I never bought into the idea that government would need a teenager to teach them survival skills....

Rating: 2/5 ........ 144 pages, 1991


bermudaonion said...

My son used to love Paulsen's books but I've never read any of them.

Jeane said...

I've enjoyed a lot of them, although like most children's books they're better read at the young age. Meaning I read a lot more of his works after I was grown and realized he'd written more than the iconic Hatchet I loved. Still enjoy them but not quite as enthralled as I would have been, had I read them back then.