The Lakers recently acquired Jason Kapono, a former Bruin who was, at one point, the most accurate three-point shooter in NBA history. So what happened? He got more playing time is what happened. While Kapono is undoubtedly one of the best three-point shooters in the game, it’s just common sense that, the more shots you take, the harder it’ll get for you to maintain that percentage.
This is kind of what happens to Gary Paulsen with Brian’s Return, the fourth book about Brian Robeson. Paulsen is a prolific writer, with over 200 titles to his name, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of his works are of the same quality. Like even the best professional basketball player, if you take too many shots, you’re bound to miss a few.
Brian Robeson has survived a plane crash and being stuck in the woods alone for a long time. This book deals with Brian’s attempt to reassimilate into civilized life, which ends with Brian seriously injuring a boy who picks a fight with him at a pizza parlor. Forced to see a psychologist after this violent act of self-protection, he realizes that he misses the wild, and decides to take a trip back into the woods.
Whereas the series’ first book, Hatchet, focused on Brian’s struggle simply to stay alive and adapt in the forest, Brian’s Return is filled with an affected air of mystery surrounding Brian’s inexplicable and irresistible connection with Nature. And I write “Nature” as a proper noun because that’s how Paulsen treats nature in this book, as though it’s a deity with whom Brian has a nebulous relationship. The whole “Mother Earth” vibe of this book made me keep rolling my eyes. Brian goes from a hardy kid who’ll never say die to a pretentious, sanctimonious tree-hugger who somehow has this mysterious connection with Nature after having lived in the woods for a mere three years.
If Paulsen had focused a little more on the survival side of the story instead of Brian’s mystical ear for hearing the pleas of Mother Earth, the book might’ve been more compelling. And the whole psychologist storyline was very “House,” Season Six. In fact, I was picturing Andre Braugher in my head in the role of Caleb the Psychologist. Meh.
But don’t get me wrong. I actually really like Gary Paulsen. I think a lot of his books are solid (especially the original Hatchet and his semi-autobiographical The Cook Camp, and anything he’s ever written about dogsledding). It’s just that this one was an airball. But I’m sure that Paulsen’s already jogging downcourt, waiting patiently for another shot opportunity.