Title: Rumble Fish
Author: S.E. Hinton
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 144
Even though The Outsiders is by far her most famous and it seems like I should have started with that one, this is the first book I’ve ever read by S.E. Hinton. It’s a quick and easy read with a very depressing story and largely unsympathetic characters, and at first I didn’t think I was going to like it. The dialogue and writing seemed a little cheesy to me but when I got further into it I started to like it a lot better.
At the beginning of Rumble Fish the protagonist, Rusty-James, runs into an old friend from his teen years who starts to stir up traumatic memories he’s tried hard to repress. Rusty-James narrates the story, but he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer and the writing reflects that. There’s a lot of things he doesn’t understand, and he doesn’t want to.
In high school Rusty-James was the tough kid but he hung out with Steve, even though Steve was smart and mostly followed the rules. Rusty-James lives with his dad and lets him do whatever he wants, lacking even the basic rudimentary interest in being a parent. He absolutely idolizes his older brother Motorcycle Boy (how could you not idolize someone with that cool-ass name?) who only shows up occasionally and doesn’t care about much of anything.
Rusty-James refuses to believe his brother is just another dead-end loser and he gets a chance to prove himself when a knife-wielding classmate challenges him to a fight. It’s obvious underneath Rusty-James’ bravado that this is yet another stupid way throw his life away, but none of these guys seems to have lives or prospects beyond getting laid and impressing their peers. Steve is the smartest but he also comes from the most violent household, and I was surprised he’d risk getting an ass-whooping from his dad to hang out with Rusty-James the bad influence.
I liked how this book’s prose was simple but powerful. It didn’t give you a lot of detail in most of the scenes but the well-placed details and grimy feeling made it come to life. I didn’t like any of the characters (except maybe Steve) but there was something about them that lingered in my mind after I finished the book. This novel portrays a certain type of life I feel lucky not to have, and everything that happens has a visceral sense of inevitability.