Rumble Fish is the perfect novella to read in one sitting. It’s powerful and subtle and immensely enjoyable. It covers similar themes of masculinity (and more) as in S.E Hinton’s The Outsiders, which beats out Rumble Fish for me simply because it’s a longer story and you get to spend more time with the characters. But I liked Rumble Fish a lot, and in this review I will attempt to explain why.
It’s one of those stories that are kind of about nothing, but also about everything. What I mean by this is that not a lot happens in the novel, or at least, because it’s so short, it seems like not a lot happens. In actual fact, once I sat back after reading it (I read it on a long trip on the train so had plenty of time to process it afterwards) I realised that there was a lot happening and that the novel brings up a lot of important issues regarding family, class, masculinity, violence and adolescence. Hinton’s writing style is so simple and elegant that it can be a little hard, at first, to realise the complexity of everything she’s writing about. You have to really look hard at the sentences and into the mind of Rusty-James’ character to make meaning from this little novel, especially when the events of the novel all seem to fly by.
Rusty-James is a great character. He’s a tough nut who just wants to be like his brother Motorcycle Boy, the most respected ex-gang member and the coolest guy of the town. Because of this Rusty-James lacks direction/motivation for anything else and longs for the Gang life, which he thinks is so much cooler than it actually was. He gets into plenty of fights and has trouble at school, and even though he has his best friend Steve, a girlfriend, a brother and a father, he feels as though he doesn’t have anyone to count on. I liked Rusty-James because he is a complex character and not just a two-dimensional knob head or anything like that. I also liked Motorcycle Boy and Steve a lot. I guess the only downside about this little novel is that you don’t get to spend much time with the characters, and I definitely would have liked to learn more about them.
I think what I liked most about Rumble Fish, besides Hinton’s sparse language use and the characters, is that it carries with it some good advice: don’t waste your life away waiting for something to happen; instead, go and find it.
Rumble Fish is a little gem and I definitely recommend reading it if you have some time spare. While it’s only a brief glimpse into Rusty-James’ world, it’s enthralling and inspiring and I think you’ll really enjoy the small amount of time Hinton has allowed us with him – especially when the story surrounding him is so wonderful, sad and daring.
I’ll definitely be watching the film ASAP, as well!