Posts Tagged ‘S.E. Hinton’

When I’m offered coffee, I don’t want tea. When I’m offered a ride, I don’t expect to walk. When I choose a book entitled Taming the Star Runner, with a number of horses on the cover, and a jacket liner which pumps up the story of a horse named Star Runner, I don’t expect a story about a teenage boy named Travis. But that’s what I got.

Taming the Star Runner  by S. E. Hinton is a coming-of-age story about a 15 year old named Travis, who, while he sees himself as very cool, is always on the edge of getting in more trouble than he can handle. After attempting to kill his abusive stepfather and doing some time, he is sent to live with his uncle on a ranch in Oklahoma. Here he meets, among others, a teen barely older than himself, Casey, rider and riding instructor, and then we finally meet who seemed to allegedly be a main character, her horse named Star Runner. Had I not been excited to read a story about this wild horse, who only first appears halfway through the book, I may have liked the story more. Or maybe not picked it up at all.

S.E. Hinton, deliberately using only her initials as an author, (lest it be realized she was a very young woman author), broke ground in the 60’s, writing about gangs. Her first published book was The Outsiders, written when she was 16. This story is similar in the sense that Travis is another angry, angst-filled teen, feeling unappreciated, isolated and ever on the edge of an emotional explosion. The story is fairly good, actually. Travis’ character is well-drawn, as are other characters, and the plot has some interesting twists and turns, even if, in my mind, they are not all tied up that well in the end. Still, this particular tale became more interesting for me when the powerful spirit of Star Runner was introduced and the girl who wanted to tame him.

Having read a number of Newbery-winning and other middle grade novels, and having learned what editors are looking for and what is being published nowadays, I can’t help but wonder if Hinton would have been published today. Or at least if she remained in her own writing style. Being mindful of what we are told at workshops, conferences, online, etc. I am sometimes amazed at how she worded things, switching tenses, using unmarked self-reflective dialogue in the same paragraph as lengthy descriptions, etc. It made me realize how much more refined the craft of writing – in this case, for teens – has become.

I don’t mean to sit and criticize S.E. Hinton for what she did – she brought a whole new way of life and type of character to light in her novels. They were groundbreaking, have become classics, and continue to resonate well with many readers today. I only wish the book had really been about what the title told me.


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