The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Hinton, S.E. The Outsiders. Laurel-Leaf Books/Dell Publishing Co. 1967. ISBN 014240733X

Reader’s Annotation: Ponyboy has always been proud of being a Greaser but when his friend Johnny kills a soc and they have to go on the run he realizes that some things are more important than just looking “tuff”.

Plot Summary: In Ponyboy’s world you are either a Greaser, lower income and looked down upon by society, or a Soc, rich kid with money who doesn’t have to follow any rules.  Ponyboy is proud of being a Greaser and other than thinking his older brother, Darry, resents him he enjoys the life he has.  Things all change when his best friend Johnny accidentally kills a Soc when he tries to jump Johnny and Ponyboy.  The two young boys have to go on the run and realize what is really important in life and how important family can be whether blood related or brotherhood related.

Critical Evaluation

The Outsiders isn’t a book about the perfect family with teenagers whose biggest concern is will they find a girlfriend or a boyfriend.  Instead it is narrated by Ponyboy Curtis, a 14 year old boy whose parents were killed in a car crash and is now being raised by his older brothers, Sodapop and Darry.  His larger “family” is also made up by members of his so called gang, which is really just a group of close friends who band together and support each other as they try to get through life as greasers and with the cards stacked against them.  The camaraderie among the group is touching to see and Ponyboy’s narration will endear him to you.  Yes, he’s not perfect and suffers from a good amount of teenage angst but he also has a sensitive side and seeing him transformed during his run from the police and having to deal with the loss of a good friend was amazing to see.

The supporting characters are just as endearing with Two-Bit’s quirky sense of humor that hides a heart of gold, sad Johnny who lives with an abusive father, Sodapop who has to serve as the mediator between Ponyboy’s resentment and Darry having to be the tough parent figure and Dally who is a complete hoodlum but amazingly shows a softer side when least expected.

The writing may not be perfect but the story will draw you in and I will admit even after numerous re-readings there are times when it brings tears to my eyes.

About the author

S.E. Hinton began writing The Outsiders her sophomore year in high school after realizing that there just weren’t books available that dealt with the real lives of teenagers.  It was finally published in 1967 during her freshman year in college.  The book was published using her initials to help hide the fact that it was written by a female author.

Hinton went on to publish several other books for young adults and the movie adaptation of The Outsiders helped launch the careers of several big name celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze and Matt Dillon among others.

Genre

Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties

English

Book talking idea

Talk about the differences in life growing up a Greaser or a Soc.

What’s the definition of family? Do family bonds always have to be blood related?

Reading level

Grade 9 and up

Challenge Issues

Profanity, teenage violence.

If  I was challenged about The Outsiders I would have the library’s collection management policy on hand and explain that the library is not here to filter what patrons read.  If questioned about this policy I would direct the patron to the ALA Bill of Rights.  This book was written as realistic fiction and is not meant to sugar coat what it was like growing up in a less privileged environment.

Why did I include this book?

This has been a long time favorite book of mine that I’ve re-read numerous times.  It’s one I would suggest to most readers both young adult and adult.

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Filed under Fiction, Realistic/Contemporary

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