"Hatchet" by Gary Paulson tells the story of 13-year-old Brian Robeson's survival after the pilot of his flight suffers a fatal heart attack and Brian is left stranded all alone in the Canadian wilderness. As the odds of rescue dwindle, Brian relies on his ingenuity and the hatchet given to him by his mother to protect and provide for himself.
While traveling to his estranged father's home in the Canadian north woods, Brian struggles to cope with his parents' divorce and the knowledge of his mother's infidelity. However, the divorce becomes the least of Brian's worries when his pilot dies and the small plane crash lands into a lake. With little hope of being rescued Brian, must adapt to the harsh environment or face certain death. Having lived in New York City for most of his life, Brian is ill-adapted to life in the wild.
Brian's first attempts to procure food and shelter end in sickness and injury when he eats toxic berries and startles a porcupine. Brian perseveres, learning from his mistakes and pushing aside the emotional anguish from his parents' divorce. Over the course of the novel, he discovers how to start a fire, construct a shelter, and obtain food by fishing and hunting. Brian is nearly brought to despair after a tornado destroys his camp. Yet, nature brings not only ruin but also salvation. The tornado reveals the plane wreckage, and Brian manages to recover survival supplies and a transmitter that ensures his rescue.