Many of the social concerns and themes that characterize Taming the Star Runner closely resemble those in other Hinton novels: adolescent loneliness and the need to belong (which find outlets in gangs); the inevitability of change and the loss of innocence as the protagonist grows up; and Oedipal conflicts, worked out both in actual and in surrogate families. Travis Harris, age fifteen, has gone to live with his uncle in Oklahoma rather than go to juvenile hall as punishment for assaulting his stepfather with a poker. Although he misses his inner-city friends and occasionally feels frustrated by his loneliness in his new school, he is a stubborn loner. He usually prefers the company of his cat, and tells himself he is grateful for his uncle Ken's seeming lack of interest in him. Gradually, however, Travis comes to appreciate the family ties that Ken represents and accepts his own need to grow up.
As with earlier Hinton books, drugs and sex remain on the periphery of the story, although Travis knows he is attractive to girls and is himself attracted to Casey, an eighteen-year-old horse trainer who works for Ken. When his friend Joe arrives unexpectedly, running away from involvement with a drug pusher and the murder of two of his friends, Travis summons the courage to get Ken's help and to send Joe back to face his punishment. Teenage drinking is treated as a fact, however; Travis sometimes longs for a drink at his uncle's, and once goes on a bender...
(The entire section is 546 words.)
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