S. E. Hinton
On the inside, there are the Socs (Socials). They’ve got money, nuclear families, and exclusionary, angry attitudes toward those not like them—kids like Ponyboy. With dead parents and a home with his two older brothers, he’s on the outside of the Socs’ world—a Greaser. So is his best friend Johnny.
It doesn’t take long for trouble to hunt down the two boys. An act of violence forces them to flee to the edges of town, where a snowballing series of events brings about a fatal, climactic showdown with the Socs. Later, as regular life, however normal it could ever be, eventually returns, Ponyboy turns away from his grief and hardships through writing and brotherly love.
Author Susan Eloise Hinton was 15 when she began writing the story and based the real-world social structures in the book on her Oklahoma high school—which perhaps explains why The Outsiders has spoken true to so many generations of readers.
The tale is an exciting one, full of knife fights, tough kids, broken homes, alcohol, cigarettes, burning churches and class warfare. And yet it stands tall as a bestselling classic because it speaks from a place of abiding adolescent truth. When Ponyboy and Johnny are on the lam, they find solace in the moral quandaries and hopefulness of Gone with the Wind and Robert Frost’s poetry. When they wish life was just a bit easier, they come to understand the value of the family and friends they do have. And when, towards end of the story, Ponyboy loses what he most loves, his deep and poignant maturation showcases what teenage years are made of: bravery, struggle, begrudging growth, deepening friendships, assumption of responsibility, understanding of hardship, and the wherewithal to rise above whatever drags you down.
So many books have taken their archetypes and storylines from The Outsiders, it’s almost easy to forget how important the book, itself, continues to be. It’s still the consummate tale of what it means to be—and overcome being—an outsider of any kind.
Reviewed by : HF.
Themes : FAMILY LIFE. ORPHANS.
CRITICS HAVE SAID
- …we meet powerful characters in a book with a powerful message.
IF YOU LOVE THIS BOOK, THEN TRY:
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Scribner, 2004, c1925.
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. Penguin, 1954.
Knowles, John. A Separate Peace. Scribner, 2003, c1959.
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. Harpercollins, 1999, c1060.
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. HarperCollins, 2006, c1963.
Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye. Back Bay Books, 2001, c1954.
Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Charles A. Webster, 1885.