© 1979 S.E. Hinton
Most of S.E. Hinton’s novels share a central drama: the main character is groping to find himself, usually in circumstances that don’t make it easy. That Was Then, This is Now was built around the growing-apart of two friends who were like brothers, for instance, their choices straining and breaking their bond. In Tex, another young guy with a penchant for making trouble is looking to the future. The past has already taken away his mother in death, and his father — as the man is still sowing wild oats in the rodeo circuit. But the future threatens to take away his older brother Mason, who is desperate to get out of town and is on track for an athletic scholarship at several universities. Tex loves two things: his horse, Negrito, and his best friend’s sister, Jamie. But Tex and Mason’s poverty forces Mason to sell the horse, and Tex’ already rowdy behavior pushes him to the brink of expulsion and threatens the good left in his life.
I read every S.E. Hinton novel I could get my hands on in high school, and three of them — That Was Then, This is Now; The Outsiders; and Rumble Fish — I have read so many times my copies are falling apart. I could barely remember Tex, however, outside of a shooting, and Taming the Star-Runner is similarly lost to memory. Although Tex’s climax is nothing like the big rumble of The Outsiders — it nonetheless drew me in instantly, with the tension between the brothers, and Tex’ hope for the future running aground against his own confused feelings