The author S. E. Hinton had her first book published when she was only seventeen years of age and has since gone on to establish herself as one of the foremost novelists of teenage fiction. Rumble Fish
was published on 1975 and is a novel which, though written for teenagers, deals with its themes with an intelligence and sophistication that is strong enough to hold any adult reader’s attention, proving that good children’s fiction doesn’t need to patronise its readership or underestimate its abilities.The main character is Rusty-James, a fourteen-year-old boy who lives with his unemployed, alcoholic father and his older brother, known as the Motorcycle Boy. Rusty-James has made his name locally as the toughest boy in the neighbourhood and his is a world which revolves around fighting, drinking, stealing and staying out all night. He longs for the old days of the gangs and their street-fights. His older brother had been president of his gang and is idolised by him.Now, however, the world is a more complicated place. The Motorcycle Boy is no longer interested in gangs, or fighting, or in anything else for that matter.
He has become a man apart, a man who is capable of achieving anything he wants, but who does not want anything. Rusty-James wants nothing more than to be, and to look like, his brother and is dismayed that no one seems to think that there is a similarity between the two brothers, physical or otherwise.As the novel progresses, The Motorcycle Boy becomes self-destructive; an approach that has a huge impact on Rusty-James and begins a process whereby he does, indeed, achieve his ambition of becoming like his brother; not realising until it is too late that this is not a blessing but, rather, a terrible curse.This is a beautifully-written, disturbing book. It has a sad, haunting quality that will remain with the reader after the book has been put down. This is a story of nihilism; of empty lives being wasted, not by slaughter but by drifting through a world that offers little.