Reviewer Jamie Curran states that this is the only book by S.E. Hinton that she has read, and she may never read another. That would be tragic.
While THE OUTSIDERS, HInton's debut novel, is quite powerful, her best book by far is RUMBLE FISH, which is not only a great novel for young adults but a true literary masterpiece.
If only I could say the same of TAMING THE STAR RUNNER.
It seems to have been written by a different author.
Perhaps it's a matter of perspective: Hinton wrote this book much later than the others, after her own son was a teenager. Too, this is the first time she has used a third-person voice in one of her novels. THE OUTSIDERS owes much of its success to the fact that it sounds like it is told by a kid - it was. Hinton was only 17 when OUTSIDERS was published. (The 14-year-old narrator, Ponyboy, is a boy, but Hinton pulled off the voice flawlessly.)
Here, the omniscient third person narrator sounds like an adult, and a mostly disapproving one at that. We read a great deal about the trouble that Travis got into, and we are introduced to two of his friends, who come off as complete dorks, but we are provided little insight into Travis' motivations for doing what he does, or his perceptions of them. Instead we hear about his transgressions from some anonymous adult who seems to like the boy but can't really relate.
Much of what Travis does throughout the story is spectacularly stupid. Somehow, in RUMBLE FISH and THE OUTSIDERS, we knew that what the characters were doing was wrong - carrying switchblades and sometimes using them, stealing cars, breaking into stores, getting into fights - and they were things that most of us readers would never do, but we could empathize with the characters who did these things. Here, when Travis' uncle finds out that he has written a novel and it's been accepted for publication, he says, "Kid, you don't strike me as the kind who could write a compound sentence, much less a novel."
Well, yeah. That's how he strikes me, too.
So what ABOUT the novel that Travis wrote? We're given nothing except that Travis would often spend weekends holed up in his room, writing, while his doofus friends wondered what he was up to. Then Travis tells his editor he dreams about his characters as if they're people he knows, but the reader gets almost no information about them at all.
Writing a novel must take a great deal of persistence, intelligence, passion, and creativity, and Travis exhibits none of these through his actions in the story. When the time comes for him to prove his strength and courage, HInton throws in - GUESS WHAT! - a fire. She already did this, and it worked, in THE OUTSIDERS. This time it comes off as a cheap rip-off of a better novel. And one she wrote, yet!
One last note: About the time STAR RUNNER was published, there were a number of young adult novels that came out that were based on the same premise: If you just take a wayward lad out of the big, bad city and give him a horse to love and take care of - and make him do some hard manual labor such as only ranchers ever see - he'll turn from a delinquent into a strong, upstanding American who knows the value of hard work, blah, blah, blah. S.L. Rottman, for example, is just one of a slew of authors who wrote a forgetable novel, HERO, just like this.
Come on, Susy! You wrote TEX, for crying out loud. You know better.
And your readers expect better from you.