Title: That Was Then, This is Now
Author: S.E. Hinton
Publication Date: 1971
Does growing up have to mean growing apart?
Since childhood, Bryon and Mark have been as close as brothers. Now things are changing. Bryon’s growing up, spending a lot of time with girls, and thinking seriously about who he wants to be. Mark still just lives for the thrill of the moment. The two are growing apart – until Bryon makes a shocking discovery about Mark. Then Bryon faces a terrible decision – one that will change both of their lives forever.
I’ve talked before about what a huge fan of The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton I am. I love a lot of books, and my life is so much better because I’ve read Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and both books changed my life in so many ways. I can honestly say though that I have read The Outsiders more times than I have read any other book. It’s such a fantastic story that resonates with people no matter what year it’s read. I first read it in the eighth grade. I had a classroom copy of the book and when we got to the middle of the book I made my parents take me to the bookstore to buy it because I needed to read the rest of it. The Outsiders is my favorite book that I have read so when I heard that Ponyboy makes an appearance in That Was Then, This Is Now I freaked. I knew he wasn’t an integral part of the plot, but the fact that he was in it at all made it amazing. I finally was able to start the book yesterday and I was not disappointed in the least.
That Was Then, This Is Now focuses on Bryon, who because of a joke at the beginning I kept saying Byron in my head, and his relationship with his best friend, Mark. After Mark’s parents died when he a child he went to live with Bryon and his mother. Growing up like brothers Bryon and Mark spend their time walking around town, hustling at pool to get money, and occasionally getting into fights with others. While this story has similarities to The Outsiders I was very happy to find that they were completely separate stories. Yes, Ponyboy has appearances in this book, but this isn’t his story. It was an added treat to see him in the book, but I enjoyed getting to know Bryon. There are several conflicts in this story.
One. Bryan vs. Mark. These two characters have been close their whole lives. Friends since childhood and like brothers for almost as long they do everything together. The story is a coming of age tale about Bryan though. The two begin to drift in the middle of the story. Bryan begins to see the world in a different light while Mark remains the same. After an unfortunate incident involving the death of one of their friends, Bryon starts to question whether or not fighting is worth it and begins to change his lifestyle, get a job, and go steady with Cathy. This creates a rift between the two friends. I really liked the relationship development between these two characters. It was a natural and realistic development between the two of them. As people learn and grow they will have natural swings in their relationship, especially if they are almost like siblings. As the story progresses there are many more ups and downs for these two boys. Their relationship at the end of the book surprised me, but, once again, I thought it was a good twist and ending.
Two. Bryan vs. Cathy. I loved these two characters together. I thought that Cathy was a good influence on Bryan. I loved that he was able to see a nicer family dynamic after seeing Angela’s family dynamic. Cathy and her family were able to take part in Bryan’s kickoff to a different person. It was perfect that they got together around the same time that Bryan’s friend died. Instead of easily running back to Angela Shepherd for comfort and continuing with the same lifestyle that he had before. There would have been no growth. There would have been no self-discovery. I didn’t like the end of their relationship, however I liked that Bryon was able to continue on with his growth.
Three. Bryan vs. Bryan. I’ve already said eight million times that this is a story about Bryan’s personal growth. There is such a heavy internal battle going on in Bryan’s brain throughout the book. Bryan was content how his life was at the beginning of the book and then through a series of events he begins to question everything he thought was all right. He sees a person reacting to drugs on two fronts, both taking the drugs and selling the drugs. He falls in love for the first time and sees a different family dynamic than what he is used to. He decides to take more responsibility with his life and gets a job. There are countless more things that he has to make choices about through the novel, but the biggest one was at the end. The discovery of a secret his friend has been keeping. I admire his strength to call the authorities, and at the same time it left me torn. Through his eyes, Hinton was able to make me feel the same feelings that Bryan felt after he made the decision.
That Was Then, This is Now was a true coming of age tale that has been speaking to readers for decades and will continue to speak to people for years to come. The tale of Bryan Douglas is relatable and authentic. Recommend this book to readers of The Outsiders is anyone who wants a strong tale of friendship and personal growth.