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The Southern Bell
The Southern Bell

Book Review: That Was Then, This Is Now

53 Views | Published December 19, 2023 | Edited December 19, 2023

Tags: #book-review #book-reviews #book #books #review #reviews


Olivia Castang

The Southern Bell - Writer
(Olivia Castang) —

Growing up is complicated, a pure example of this is the story, That Was Then, This Is Now, by renowned author S.E. Hinton. The book effectively captures genuine elements of the teenage experience. Moreover, the author’s realistic characterization and lack of needlessly seeking a happy ending adds a certain depth to the story. There were a few recurring themes in the book, but we’ll focus on the most prevalent. Primarily, to be young is to be invincible and later, you don’t need to hate those who have wronged you.  

The book follows two teenagers, Bryon, and his adopted brother Mark. The boys are extremely close. Bryon describes Mark as the person he loves most (Hinton 51), and Bryon is stated as the only person Mark cares about (133). Regarding the aforementioned statement, S.E. Hinton writes realistically about the teenage experience, and this includes the carefree energy unique to adolescents. The teens maintain a strong desire for freedom and as a result, they express themselves by acting on impulsive urges. Mark believes that nothing bad happens to young people (113) and that Bryon should stop worrying about things so often (118).  

Along with the exhilarating freedom that the juvenile experience gives, their story also reveals some divergent ideas regarding peace, love, and hate. Primarily, the story conveys that it is safe to forgive those who have wronged you. Hate only results in a never-ending cycle of “getting even”. Bryon reaches this conclusion when he was beaten up by the Shepard brothers for Mark cutting off their sister’s hair. But Mark did this because the sister’s reckless vengeance led to Mark’s injury. Bryon realizes this is a pointless loop of bed events where no one can win. As a result, he orders Mark to not beat them up as revenge and finally end the cycle. (133)


To summarize, S.E. Hinton’s book, That Was Then, This Is Now was a thoughtful novel regarding teenage freedom and peace and more importantly, discussions of right and wrong. Overall, the author wrote this novel to make us think and succeeded with the inconclusive ending. Additionally, there are numerous themes one could take away from this book and several different ways to interpret those ideas. The story introduces the theory that sometimes, situations are more than just good or bad. There are many factors which play into a person’s behavior, and we should all be more accepting of people who are different from us.


I would recommend this book to anyone who wishes to read about the complexities of maturity and morality.

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