These first chapters also introduce stylistic trends in the book. The narrative shifts back and forth between past and present, between the events on the plane ride and Brian's thoughts on the past. Through these shifts the reader gains an intimate knowledge of Brian's thoughts and feelings, and experiences the plane ride as he would. In addition, Paulsen isolates certain significant words in order to convey to the reader their import to Brian's consciousness. He often begins paragraphs with sentences containing only one word or a few words, and at times his paragraphs contain only one word. For example, Paulsen writes of Brian's thoughts: "The words. Always the words. Divorce. The Secret. Fights. Split." Paulsen also repeats these select words and phrases to sustain an element of suspense and rhythm during Brian's adventures. During Brian's negotiation of the plane's descent, Paulsen employs this type of repetition particularly often, with phrases such as, "Easy say, hard do" and "Gonna die." It realistically reflects the tendency toward a frantic and urgent thought process in a time of emergency.

Lastly, Paulsen introduces the theme of survival early on in the novel. Brian's solitary adventure in the Canadian north woods provides the central struggle for survival in the book. However, his struggle to survive begins even before his time in the wilderness, with his effort to land the plane and emerge alive. He must demonstrate clear-headedness, bravery, and perseverance during the descent of the plane, qualities that only become more essential as the story unfolds.