For some reason, while I spent some time this week reading kids' and YA books, I started thinking about S. E. Hinton (of The Outsiders fame) and her novel That Was Then, This is Now. I read it a long time ago, and I remember it depressing the hell out of me. Now that I'm older and more jaded, I wondered, would I still find it as depressing?
The story, in brief, is this: Bryon and Mark are best friends, and because Mark has lived with Bryon and his single mother for some years (after his abusive parents shot each other--one of the first clues of the true downer nature of this book), they are really more like brothers. They spend most of their time hustling pool, trying to find money to live while Bryon's mother is in the hospital having an operation, and eventually (in Bryon's case) dating the older sister of a gentle, hippie-ish young teenager in their neighborhood.
I won't spoil the ending; I'll just say that eventually the hippie-ish kid has a bad LSD trip (the book was first published in 1971, when LSD was the scary drug of the day), and this calamitous event forces Bryon, when he learns that Mark is dealing drugs, to do something it seems he really ends up regretting.
All I can say about this one is, wow, brutal. I feel like I need a nice adult murder mystery or something to cheer me up after this one. I've actually never read (and still don't read) a lot of YA books. Are a lot of them this melodramatic?