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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Rumble Fish, by S.E. Hinton (The Outsiders), tells the story of Rusty-James, who resorts to fighting to feel good about himself. It also explores his relationship with his older brother, Motorcycle Boy, a former gang leader he looks up to. Many teens will recognize and appreciate this realistically written story of a kid with no hope, living in a world of violence where only the tough survive. It's a realistic, engrossing portrait of a kid without much going for him, with a story and characters so engaging it's great for reluctant readers. Rumble Fish was adapted into a 1983 movie starring Matt Dillon and Mickey Rourke and directed by Francis Ford Coppola; the movie is more violent than the book.
- Parents say
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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. One fight has serious consequences, and Rusty-James gets sent to reform school. His brother's actions have serious consequences, as well. These are the memories he recalls five years later when he runs into someone who knew him in junior high.
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 lets readers see Rusty-James as he cannot see himself. Readers experience Rusty-James' dangerous life, but they also see more.
Hinton reveals the experiences in his family that led Rusty-James to become a juvenile delinquent. Despite his thoroughly deserved status as a bad boy and a thief, Rusty-James nevertheless comes across as a recognizable and sympathetic character. His toughness raises him above his peers, and his acceptance of his apparently miserable life helps readers accept him. This is an impressive effort from the woman who virtually created the young-adult genre.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Rusty-James' self-image affects his behavior in Rumble Fish. Is Rusty-James as "dumb" as he thinks he is?
If you read the author's The Outsiders, how does this book compare?
What do you think about the relationship between Rusty-James and Motorcycle Boy? How realistic does it seem?
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.