Book Review: Brian’s Winter

After I finished Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, I decided to go on to another reread of the sequel, Brian’s Winter, which in some ways reads like the second half of the story—and in other ways is unfortunately not as strong.

Paulsen decided to do something I don’t think I’ve seen another author do—he wrote a sequel based on an alternate ending of his first book! Hatchet ends with Brian’s rescue during the fall, but Paulsen decided to return to the story, imagining that the rescue didn’t occur, and tell the story of how Brian would have survived the winter.

That pretty well captures the plot—Brian learns new survival skills and adapts with the challenges of hunting and staying warm in a snowy Canadian winter. The book is interesting for what it is…but it’s not very much. The trouble, oddly, is that too much character growth happened in the first book. Brian’s adaptation to life in the wilderness is the strength of Hatchet. The sequel opens with that character growth largely complete, and there isn’t much more growth for Brian to do in this book.

So what we get instead is a lot of (admittedly interesting) details about how to improvise survival in the woods in winter. Brian starts hunting bigger game (and the book gets a little more gruesome, so be warned) and rigs together hide clothes and a better shelter. Paulsen’s writing is always clear and engaging, but it’s probably a good thing this was a very short book. It was enjoyable, but I’m not sure how long it would have stayed enjoyable!

There are two other Brian books, but I don’t think I’ll go on to reread them. I read them before, mostly looking for some kind of answer on how the rest of Brian’s life would turn out. They don’t exactly provide that, and after rereading Brian’s Winter, I’m suspecting that they have a similar lack of further growth for Brian to do (although I don’t really remember).

I still very highly recommend Hatchet, but I think it’s a great book that launched an only okay series—so only read the others if you really love the character, or love learning about forest survival!

Other reviews:
Paper Breathers
Books and Babble
Anyone else?

Buy it here: Brian’s Winter

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Brian’s Winter

  1. dianem57

    Sometimes an author carries an idea for a story on past the point where it’s really interesting for the reader. Maybe that’s what happened here. Only the most dedicated readers would be interested in the later books – his best writing was in the first book.

  2. You bring up an interesting point – the first book did have the most character development, I think. I fell in love with the character, and that’s probably the reason why I enjoyed the other sequels too! But definitely agree that character development is not a focus for the other books – they’re more like novellas or short stories about just one situation in Brian’s life. Great review! 🙂

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