That Was Then, This Is Now by S.E. Hinton

October 12, 2011
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I was born in the nineties, but S.E Hinton made me feel like I was cruising in the back of a VW Bus in the sixties in That Was Then, This Is Now. I felt like I was right with Mark and Bryon, hustling and running rampant in the streets of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Hinton takes you through an extraordinary aspect of their lives at age sixteen and at a time when the hippie movement was in effect and when there were still hoodlums roaming the streets, looking for someone to jump. This coming of age story is told in narration by Bryon Jennings. His voice rings so well throughout the book, that you really get a feel of what being a teenager back in the Sixties was all about.
Ever since they were little, Mark and Bryon have been as close as brothers. But, now as they are growing up, maturing and spending more time with girls, they struggle to hold onto what they have. S.E. Hinton manages to combine this plot all into Bryon’s superlative narration. This book is a swift read, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t challenge you. Hinton leaves you wondering and wanting more in just the first chapter. She builds the setting up so unambiguously, that it’s hard to not want to race to the end.
I think what really binds this astounding story together is the characters. There’s Bryon, who livens the story, who’s also focused on doing the right thing and maturing. But, that doesn’t mean he’s still not wild, young and free. Then there’s Mark, Bryon’s best friend, a reckless guy who lives by the rule that when you’re young nothing can affect you. He does what he wants, when he wants. There is also sweet Cathy, Bryon’s girlfriend, a sympathetic, good-hearted girl, who teaches Bryon many things throughout the book. M&M, whose real name isn’t revealed in the book, is my favorite character. S.E. Hinton even writes, “… his own family called him M&M. I tried to remember for a second what his real name was, but I couldn’t think of it.” M&M is Cathy’s brother, who’s very influenced by the hippie movement and peace. For only being 12, M&M has a vast, sophisticated vocabulary and his words intrigue you so much. He is my favorite because he’s so hermetic, and acts nothing like the others.
That Was Then, This Is Now was written right after S.E Hinton published her award-winning novel The Outsiders. Many characters mentioned throughout the book such as Ponyboy Curtis and heartthrob Sodapop Curtis come up again in That Was Then, This Is Now, although this is not a sequel to The Outsiders. S.E Hinton wrote That Was Then, This Is Now about an old friendship she used to have. Hinton actually only wrote this novel because her husband had told her that if she wrote two pages a day, he would take her out. She had no intentions of ever getting it published! Funny, because she ended up winning the Massachusetts Children’s Book Award in 1978.
This outstanding coming of age novel is extremely remarkable. With tension rising in every chapter, vivid characters, and beautiful setting details, That Was Then, This Is Now is truly an unforgettable story. I strongly suggest you read it!

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