Rumble Fish Book Poster Image

Rumble Fish

Realistic portrait of a kid with no future.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Teenagers and reluctant readers recognize and appreciate this realistically written story of a kid with no hope, living in a world of violence where only the tough survive.

Positive role models

The main character fights and steals, smokes and drinks, with no guidance from parents or his school. He is, however, opposed to drugs.


Descriptions of a knife fight and mugging, with resulting injuries. A boy is shot and killed by the police.


Two brief descriptions of heavy necking, with kissing only.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking and smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that many teenagers and reluctant readers recognize and appreciate this realistically written story of a kid with no hope, living in a world of violence where only the tough survive.

What's the story?

Fourteen-year old Rusty-James reigns as the toughest kid in his rough, depressed neighborhood. He worships his older brother, who was the leader of a gang. But his brother drifts aimlessly, and Rusty-James lives only for the excitement of fighting. A realistic, engrossing portrait of a kid with no talents and no future. Great for reluctant readers.


Is it any good?


Readers who enjoyed S.E. Hinton's much-loved The Outsiders usually want to read the rest of her books -- and RUMBLE FISH stands as one of her best efforts. This spare portrait of a juvenile delinquent who has no desire to better his life allows readers to see Rusty-James as he cannot see himself. Readers experience Rusty-James's dangerous life, but they also see more.

Hinton reveals what brought Rusty-James to his status as juvenile delinquent. Rusty-James, despite his thoroughly deserved status as a bad boy and a thief, nevertheless comes across as a recognizable and sympathetic character. His toughness raises him above his peers, and his joyful acceptance of his apparently miserable life allows us to accept him. This is an impressive effort from the woman who virtually created the young-adult genre.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about self-image.

  • Is Rusty-James as "dumb" as he thinks he is?

Book details

Author:S. E. Hinton
Genre:Coming of Age
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:January 1, 1975
Number of pages:122
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 14

This review of Rumble Fish was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Great handpicked alternatives

Top advice and articles

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 14 years old Written bysexisadie1 January 8, 2009


the book was very good and it inspired me 2 not drink, or be in any type of gangs....U WILL LOVE IT...
Teen, 14 years old Written byhicksbuilt April 9, 2008

a good freshman reader

Rusty-James’s only direction in life is to be exactly like his brother, Motorcycle Boy. Even though all his brother does is drift thoughtlessly through life. Rusty-James is stuck seemingly for the rest of his life in a crummy neighborhood because he refuses to rely on anything but his physical strength.
Teen, 15 years old Written bybibliophile November 11, 2008

Couldn't even finish...

Okay, I've read The Outsiders and That Was Then, This is Now, and I loved both, so I'm definitely not against S.E.Hinton. However, I tried reading both this book and Tex, and I had to stop because of the amounts of swearing. Within the first twenty pages of this book, there had been six or seven swear words. Tex wasn't as bad, but still high. I can't tell you anything else, other than I really wanted to read them but felt dirty after the first few pages. Proceed at your own risk! I highly recommend Outsiders and That Was Then, This is now (See my reviews for info)