That Was Then, This Is Now

Book review by
Monica Wyatt, Common Sense Media
That Was Then, This Is Now Book Poster Image
Teenagers love the gritty realism of this novel.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 21 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive messages

This is one of those character driven stories that appeal to teens because they see themselves in the characters and connect with the turbulence within their lives. However, since the subject matter is concerning some difficult stuff, this book can be a catalyst for a discussion with your teen about how they feel, and what is going on in their world.

Positive role models & representations

A character helps an African-American girl, but she asks her friends to beat him up because he's white. As was common in 1971, the main character refers to African-Americans as "Negroes." The main characters hustle pool, fight, drink and smoke.

Violence

A man is shot to death, and both main characters are injured in several brutal fights.

Sex
Language

One mild expletive. The main character states a dislike for the profanity he hears all around him.

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Drinking and smoking and drug use.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that teenagers often see themselves in this story about kids who are going through a turbulent adolescence. The realistic character study seems to touch young readers, who frequently undergo similar uncertainty.

User Reviews

Adult Written by[email protected] April 9, 2008
Adult Written byZorchalate April 9, 2008
Teen, 14 years old Written bymayra April 9, 2008
Teen, 15 years old Written bybagelboy April 9, 2008

What's the story?

Best friends become enemies when one accepts violence and crime and the other turns against that life. Bryon and Mark grow up together on the wrong side of the tracks, get into fights, and hustle pool. But Bryon changes, while Mark doesn't. Teenagers love the gritty realism of this novel and the story of a boy's inner turmoil.

 

Is it any good?

Young readers who enjoyed The Outsiders often want to read this one, which contains realistic portrayals of the same tough, wrong-side-of-the-track kids. But while The Outsiders simply exploits pathos, THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW explores more complex ideas only touched on in the earlier book. It's a superior effort, one that even extremely reluctant readers understand and enjoy.

Much like The Outsider, this book examines friendship and loyalty. But in this case, the main character, Bryon, turns in his best friend, Mark, to the police. It's a major transformation for Bryon, who states throughout the book that he hates cops. Unlike Mark, Bryon tires of the constant violence of his neighborhood. He's stunned when he hears the story of a hospitalized boy who refuses to hate his attackers, even though he had tried to help their friend. Bryon begins thinking about the futility of revenge and the cycle of violence it causes.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the realities of being a teenager in the 1950s (the time period in which this book is set) and how it compares with the struggles of being a teen today.

  • Why does Byron hate the police? What prompts him to grow weary of all the violence that surrounds him on a daily basis? Do you agree with Byron's decision to turn Mark into the cops?

  • Have you ever felt similarly conflicted by your desire to stay loyal to a friend but, at the same time, to do the right thing?

Book details

For kids who love high drama and higher emotions

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