Rumble Fish (novel)

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Rumble Fish
Rumble fish 1st edition 1975.jpg
First hardcover edition, 1969
Author S. E. Hinton
Country United States
Language English
Genre Young adult novel
Publication date
Media type Print (Paperback)
Preceded by That Was Then, This Is Now
Followed by Tex

Rumble Fish is a 1978 novel for young adults by S. E. Hinton, author of The Outsiders. It was adapted to film and directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1983.


Rusty-James is the main character of the novel. Rusty-James is 14, and he has already started drinking, smoking, gang-fighting and playing pool for money, however normal this was. Rusty-James says that he and his older brother The Motorcycle Boy look alike (though nobody else thinks so), with the same "odd shade of dark red hair, like black-cherry pop" and eyes. Rusty-James says that his memory is screwed up sometimes; that's why at the very start of the book he has trouble remembering who his old-best friend, Steve Hayes, is.

The Motorcycle Boy, whose real name is never mentioned, is Rusty-James' older brother. He is said to have an obsession with motorcycles and is away from home for long periods of time. On a trip to California, he finds their mother who left home when Rusty-James was very young. Everyone likes him. Rusty-James says that people look at him, stop, and then look again. Towards the end of the book The Motorcycle Boy is in the pet store staring at some Siamese Fighting Fish, which he calls "Rumble Fish", hence the name of the book.

Steve Hayes is Rusty-James' best friend. Rusty-James says that Steve is 14, like him, but looks younger. Unlike Rusty-James, Steve doesn't smoke, drink or fight.

Biff Wilcox is Rusty-James' rival, introduced early in the book when Rusty is told that Biff wants to kill him. They have a knife fight where Rusty almost wins but is distracted by the arrival of The Motorcycle Boy; when Rusty-James looks at The Motorcycle Boy, Biff grabs the knife and slashes it across Rusty-James' side, leaving a long gash. Rusty-James is later expelled from school and placed in Biff's school.

Patty is Rusty-James' girlfriend until half-way through the book when she learns that Rusty-James was seen fooling around with a black-haired girl at a party. She and Rusty's friend Smokey later become a couple. Smokey later admits that he made sure Patty found out about Rusty-James and the girl so that she would date him instead.

Rusty-James' mother lives in California. She left a long time ago when Rusty was only a small boy.

Rusty-James' father lives with the boys but goes out drinking all day so he is hardly ever home; when he is home though he practically ignores Rusty. Motorcycle Boy tells Rusty-James that the reason he can't stand to be home alone is that when their mother left, she took Motorcycle Boy with her and his father went on a three-day drinking binge, and Rusty-James (age 2 at the time) was left alone to fend for himself for that time alone.

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