The first time I read S.E. Hinton's classic novel The Outsiders, I was 13. My best friend had to read it for her English class and write an essay comparing and contrasting the book with the movie adaption. I watched the film with her and we were instantly enamored with the story of Ponyboy, his brothers, and his friends (Admittedly, this had mostly to do with the fact the movie featured pretty much every cute boy Hollywood had to offer at the time. And to a couple 13-year-old girls, well...you get the idea). I begged to read the book when she was finished, and she loaned me her copy, and I devoured it. I'm sure I still have it somewhere...
Oddly enough, I hadn't read anything else Hinton had to offer until now. I recently picked up That Was Then This Is Now, and thought it was just as good as The Outsiders. Better, maybe. Bryon and Mark live in the same underprivileged neighborhood where The Outsiders is set (in fact, Ponyboy, the narrator of The Outsiders, even makes a cameo appearance in the story). These two best friends were raised as brothers and are that close. But they're also growing up and growing apart...as much as Bryon hates to admit it. Bryon starts dating Kathy, gets a job, and starts trying to turn his life around. But Mark heads in the opposite direction: fighting, stealing, and even getting involved with drugs. Bryon tried to ignore all this. Mark is family, after all, and family comes first. But when Kathy's little brother almost dies after taking drugs he got from Mark, Bryon faces the worst choice of his life: Do nothing or turn Mark in before someone else gets hurt--or worse.
Admittedly, That Was Then This Is Now is not the sort of book I've been gravitating toward lately, and it's not usually the sort of story I like, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Horrible (but fitting) ending and all. The best part for me was the characters and how real they were. Even minor characters had depth. And it also hit home in some strange ways. Not that I've ever faced a choice like the one Bryon faces, but because we do grow up and grow apart from friends...even friends we, in our innocence, promise to be BFFs with forever. We don't mean for it to happen. It just does. My best friend now is not the same as my best friend when I was 13. In fact, I lost touch with this girl (the same friend I borrowed The Outsiders from) shortly after I graduated and moved out of my parents' house. I guess I was thinking about her lately and maybe this is why I picked up a Hinton book.
Whatever the reason, I'm glad to have read That Was Then This Is Now. And I would absolutely recommend it! --AJB