Thursday, September 10, 2009

The River by Gary Paulsen

Title: The River
Author: Gary Paulsen
ISBN: 0440407532, Dell Yearling, 1991
Genre: Young Adult, Brian Robeson #2
Rating: C+

First Line: Brian opened the door and stood back.

This book is the sequel to Paulsen's Newbery Medal-winning The Hatchet which I reviewed a few months ago. In this book, some men who run a government survival school want Brian to go back to the Canadian wilderness and show them how he survived. Derek Holtzer, the psychologist running the program, believes that the teaching will be much more successful if he's gone through the real thing.

After much talking with Brian's family, it's agreed that the young boy can go. When they reach the last leg of their journey, Brian puts his foot down: if Derek really wants to learn how to survive then the tents, food, guns, sleeping bags...everything must stay behind. If any of those items come along they will be used, and Derek won't be learning how to survive.

Derek knows that Brian is right and agrees to the plan, only bringing along communication gear. They don't even have time to set up camp properly when a rip-snorting storm blows through the lake area. Derek is struck by lightning; the communications are knocked out. The only thing Brian can do in an effort to save Derek's life is to build a raft and travel by river to a small trading post.

Brian is an exceptional character, and I enjoyed reading about him again. The problem with this book is that the premise is over within the span of five heartbeats. Zap! The lightning strikes. Bam! Derek is gravely injured. Pow! Brian builds the raft. Zowie! They're on the river. Oof! They're at the trading post. There's just not enough meat on the bone in which to sink your teeth.

Fortunately, this isn't the last book that Paulsen has written about Brian, so when I need a survival fix, I'll look up the other books in the series. This is a young character who has definitely gotten under my skin!


  1. I'm happy to learn of an new (new for me). Thank you for your honest review. I enjoy reading books by authors I haven't read before but it's nice to read the books that are wholeheartedly recommended first. I'm very interested in this character that has gotten under your skin, he certainly sounds interesting!

  2. I thought Hatchet was a wonderful book, so I'm very interested to read your assessment of The River. Hatchet was my choice whenever I had a reluctant boy reader, but it also stood on its own merits too. It sounds like maybe Paulsen was rushed into print with this one without having the time to develop a more complex plot.

  3. I agree that this one wasn't nearly as good as Hatchet. It was still a good adventure story, but lacking in the character depth and pacing.

  4. I've read Hatchet (review going up in a couple of weeks) and Brian's Winter twice but I haven't read this one. Have you read Paulsen's memoir Guts? It's really, really good.

  5. Sorry this one isn't quite as good as the first.


Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!