The Outsiders (S. E. Hinton)

This is for any reader who goes weak at the knees for a group of tragic boys with tragic pasts who are outwardly dangerous and feared, but are actually soft marshmallows underneath and love each other more than life–and would die for each other. Yes, its another book about sensitive teenage boys who alternately get into gang fights, hug one another and burst into tears. Then there’s the tight T shirts and lots of muscle admiring. Even though they’re always complimenting each other’s pretty hair and doing gymnastics, it’s not gay at all because it takes place in 1965, shortly after James Dean had made crying and homoerotic tension cool.

So, the adventurous reader might need a bunch of tissues to make it to the end of this teeny psycho drama. The novel’s strongest quality is the perspective of its main character, the unfortunately named Ponyboy Curtis. He is 14, the baby of the group, and it becomes clear almost immediately that he struggles to fit into the rigid expectations of his caste. Ponyboy is steadfastly loyal to his gang, shows up for his side in a rumble, and claims the title “Greaser” with an air of pride. However, he goes against the grain by being academically oriented and malleable in his attitude toward life. The honesty in his narrative voice gives us an adulterated look at how he wavers back and forth between praising and condemning the division of social classes. For him, the allegiance of the Greasers is far superior, even akin to a brotherhood, while the order of the Socs is based on selfishness and dominance.

But Pony is not ignorant to the trouble that comes with being poor in his town, and multiple times he expresses grief over the inevitability of his friends’ futures. Hinton uses this short tale to make some powerful statements about importance of family, the potency of friendship, and the haste with which all of that can be taken away from you. The poison of branding individuals by their social standing, the struggling combatting the taboo of leaving a small town in search of personal success. These concepts are handled with an insightful intelligence for a writer who was just a teen herself. The violence between opposing gangs, and the lack of adult knowledge or interference, seems so sad and pointless, but adolescent rage with no direction or purpose has to exert itself in some way. These boys just wanted to survive, and to possibly find happiness in the process. If you know a teen that is raging against the hand they’ve been dealt, try to get a copy of this into their hands. Then they might appreciate that life isn’t about chocolate cake for breakfast, inappropriate underwear or amazing sunsets. 🙂

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Comments

  1. Brilliant review, I must admit I got into a giggling fit at the reveal of the main character’s name!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks so much! Yeah, I couldn’t believe that name either…smh.

    Like

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