Seeing that this is an overall opinion question, there will be many different answers. I think it's a phenomenal read. When I taught sixth graders, they were literally engrossed with it. There are so many great thematic hooks within the book. The idea of survival, and what it takes to survive is fairly powerful. The emergence of Brian's "tough hope" is something that inspires readers. Paulsen's construction of Brian's character as one who undergoes changes and evolution in the course of his narrative is really powerful. Brian's ability to work within the present through moments where his mind seeks to assemble parts of the past is great to read, a convergence of time where past and present merge together into what is. The epilogue is probably the part that I loved exploring the most with students. The idea that Brian could outlast and defeat the wilderness, hunger, and overwhelming odds, but could not overcome his parents' divorce and "the secret" is something that is very telling and speaks to students.
Having been likened to Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson, the popular author,Gary Paulsen's Hatchet has been a compelling novel for many young readers, especially males. There is adventure, of course, in this novel. But, there is also a spiritual journey that certainly lends literary worthiness to this novel. In a bildungsroman of spirit, thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson calls upon his inner self to teach him to survive. For instance, in a dream he remembers that he has seen sparks when striking stone with his one possession, a hatchet; so, upon awakening, he commences to making a fire.
Paulsen also makes clever use of flashbacks as spiritual connections for Brian with his family and past life, connections that help him to survive and become a survivor as in his self-examination and isolation he learns more about himself. Certainly, then, Paulsen's Hatchet has literary value, especially for readers around the same age as Brian Robeson. Here is one observation from enotes:
Paulsen's depiction of Brian's struggle is sympathetic rather than sensational. The reader feels the poignancy of Brian's too rapid transition from boyhood to manhood. The physical ordeal and the emotional ordeal are parallel struggles for Brian. Without both, the novel would be less compelling and less insightful about a boy's coming-of-age in contemporary society