In a post sure to rile up book lovers, I shall discuss the judgment of books by their covers; namely collecting movie tie-in paperbacks. It may not be big-time Collecting with a capital ‘C’ (at least in terms of dollar value), but copies of these old paperbacks certainly have more appeal to some folks than mass market sized books sans film adaptation covers. (And bonus points for those with photo pages with scenes from the movie.)
In general, such book collecting practices have perks for parents too: A) you can foster interest in reading if you let your kids (during those uninterested in reading years) buy books based on movies or the re-released film versions; and B), kids digging for “Now a Major Motion Picture!” covers remain occupied (with less whining) longer at the thrift store, rummage sale, flea market, etc.
But as with most of my collecting tales, I’ll be discussing one title in specific: Tex, by S.E. Hinton, copyright 1979 (my copy is the second Dell Laurel-Leaf printing, August, 1982).
It’s true that I was drawn to this paperback simply because Matt Dillon was on the cover. First, because I had a thing for Dillon back in the day. (I won’t apologize for it — but I will apologize to Jackie Earle Haley for mistakenly remembering Dillon as playing the bad boy Kelly in Bad News Bears.) And second because I figured that if Dillon — and Meg Tilly — were in some early-80’s flick that I don’t recall, it must have been down-right cheesy, and I’m a girl who loves her kitsch.
But, in a surprise left to the temple — which will undoubtedly thrill my fellow bibliophiles — this book wasn’t the breezy-cheesy-chuckle I’d thought.
My first clue came just a few pages into reading, when my 13 year old spotted me nose-deep, and asked if she could read it when I was done. I thought it was for the cover’s hot bad boy on the cycle. But it turns out, she recognized the author from a book she loved, The Outsiders. Apparently, it was read (and the film viewed) in school; but I’ll admit, I know nothing of The Outsiders.
After promising that she could borrow it (if she would write her own review — yup, that’s foreshadowing!), I returned my nose to the book and read.
The short story is that Tex is a pretty good read, which is probably why the ALA gave it the Best Book for Young Adults title. It’s full of that misfit angst, friendship stuff (including a budding romance), with plenty of anger issues forced by a dysfunctional family setting. Focused on the male perspective, boys ought to like this book for sure and there are plenty of things for girls to like too (including horses!) too.
My first thought was to mention that the story isn’t dated; but then I remembered that it isn’t dated based on my perspective… See, I grew up in a world where kids didn’t have cell phones, so maybe the lack of electronic gadgetry will ring of ye olden days to kids today. And back in the day, we kids got to hang-out at carnivals etc., without either parents or the parental fears of the dangers of strangers we have today… So maybe it is dated. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how my 13 year old feels about it. (Though I’ll admit, she doesn’t have a cell phone either; so her perspective might be tainted with our old world ways.)
In any case, I never saw the book’s reveal coming — something I can rarely say about fiction in general, let alone a book intended for teens. So Hinton’s story gets high praise from me.
Reading it brought back all those teenage feelings, a general nostalgia; picturing Matt Dillon doing all those things didn’t hurt either. The cover shot of Dillon on the motorcycle might have been a bit misleading (in true promo-fashion, it captures a dramatic scene depicting the physical action of an epiphany), but that’s the worst thing I can say. And hey, that’s what got me to pick up the book in the first place.
While most used copies of Tex sell for a buck or two (and mine was only 50 cents at a thrift store), used copies of Tex with Matt Dillon on the cover can be quite pricey.
But if you’re a Dillon fan, or a fan of the film, it’s probably worth it to spend more on a collectible copy.