S. E. Hinton

Taming The Star Runner

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Taming The Star Runner Summary

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Taming the Star Runner is the 1988 young adult, coming-of-age novel written by American author S.E. Hinton. Unlike her previous YA publications, this is Hinton’s only novel written in the third person. The book is also Hinton’s only YA novel that has yet to be adapted into a feature film. Set in Oklahoma, the story centers on the cool but hot-tempered teenager Travis Harris and the struggles he faces after relocating from the big city to his uncle’s rural horse ranch. When Travis meets a horse trainer named Casey Kencaide, he is introduced to her prized horse, the Star Runner. As the story unfolds, parallels are drawn between Travis and the Star Runner, as both creatures embody an independent, untamable spirit. Thematically, the novel explores adolescence, teen angst, loneliness, isolation, belonging, rebellion, maturity, self-discovery, and acceptance.

Told in the third person perspective by protagonist Travis Harris, the story begins in an unnamed big city. Travis is a tough, cool, popular 16-year-old boy who does not care what other people think about him. Travis has a hot-temper, but also has a secret artistic side as a budding writer. Travis smokes, drinks, and swears a lot. As the story begins, Travis gets released from juvenile hall after nearly beating his stepfather, Stan, to death. Deeply resentful of the way his mother favors Stan over himself, Travis wants to kill his stepfather. Travis recalls assaulting Stan with a fire poker after coming home to find his abusive stepfather stuffing pages of his writing in the fireplace. After his time in jail, Travis is sent to live with his uncle Ken on a horse ranch outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Once in Oklahoma, Travis immediately loathes country living. While he isn’t quite homesick, he still prefers city life to the slow and boring rural way of living. At his new school, Travis is either ignored or leered and laughed at for the way he looks and dresses. The very qualities that people revered Travis for in the city are now the subjects of derision. Yet, Travis does not care and has no desire to change. Feeling a sense of loneliness and isolation, Travis can’t quite reconcile his contempt for the rustic way of living and his desire to fit in. Even his uncle Ken, who is in the throes of a divorce and works long hours as a lawyer, hasn’t enough time for Travis. Riddled with angst and unease, Travis continues to work on his new novel even after receiving poor grades in English class. Travis writes a letter to his friend Joe, the only person who even dares respond in kind.

Soon Travis is introduced to Casey Kencaide, an 18-year-old riding instructor who runs a training-ground on Ken’s ranch. Travis is instantly smitten with Casey, as she is older, bolder, and perhaps the bravest person he has ever met. Travis begins working as a stable hand in Casey’s barn. Soon Travis meets Star Runner, Casey’s prized stallion. Much like Travis, Star Runner has a wild, unruly, untamable spirit. After taking the job, Travis receives an offer to have his book published. Hitting the town to celebrate, Travis gets roughed-up by a bouncer in a bar fight after lying about his age. Badly injured, Travis calls Ken for help. Travis tells his uncle about his book deal, which comes as an unpleasant surprise to Ken.

Travis begins adjusting to daily life in Oklahoma. When Ken refuses to be the legal signatory on Travis’ book deal (due to Travis being underage), Travis’ temper flares up once again. Travis hurls a telephone at Ken’s wife Teresa, nearly killing her and their baby Christopher. Incensed, Teresa learns of Travis’ criminal record and attempts to kick him out of the house. Teresa threatens to sue for sole custody of Christopher if Ken refuses to get rid of Travis. Ken and Travis make amends after voicing how they both wished each was the father and son they hoped for. We learn Travis’ father died in the Vietnam War just two months prior to Travis being born. Ken ultimately softens, deciding to help Travis get his novel published. Ken meets with a publisher, Ms. Carmichael, as well as partakes in a TV publicity spot to help promote Travis’ book.

With new hope on the brink, Travis’ sordid past catches up with him. Joe suddenly shows up unannounced, explaining that he is in a dangerous bind. It turns out that after Travis moved, Joe and his buddies, twin brothers Billy and Mike, began burglarizing for money. They stole items and moved them through a man named Orson. Once Joe quit the scheme, the twins found another man to move the stolen goods through. For this, Orson kills the twin brothers and is now looking to do the same to Joe. Travis and Ken convince Joe to return and face trial. When Joe agrees, Travis and Ken take him to the local police station to be extradited. Travis decides to leave his criminal past behind him.

Upon returning from the station, a violent lightning storm occurs. Travis and Ken help Casey round up the horses into the barn. As this happens, Star Runner breaks free of its enclosure and makes an escape. Travis and Casey chase after Star Runner, but her jeep is struck by lightning. Although only implied by Travis smelling burnt flesh, Star Runner dies after being struck by lightning as well.

Upon recovery in the end, Travis and Casey become closer than ever. Although Travis confesses his love for Casey, their romance is never consummated. Still, their friendship grows deeper. Travis comes away accepting his sense of independence. Travis also learns to remain like Star Runner, never allowing anyone to tame or control his spirit under any circumstances.

Taming the Star Runner is Hinton’s final novel to take place in and around her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Like her first novel, The Outsiders, the ending of the book implies the protagonist to be the author.