Friday, March 17, 2017

The Outsiders

by S.E. Hinton
180 pgs

The Outsiders is one of those books that I read so long ago and remember really enjoying, but can’t remember anything about, nor why I liked it. So I decided to read it again. The risk in doing so is that maybe the book wouldn’t stand the test of time and I’d come away wondering why I liked it the first time around. But since it’s remained a staple on most junior high schools’ assigned reading lists for the last fifty years (its 50th anniversary is this month) I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen. It didn’t. It’s still such a great story.

S.E. Hinton uses Ponyboy, her first-person narrator to tell the story of himself and his fellow “Greasers,” and their repeated run-ins with the “Socials,” or “Socs.” Once again, I enjoyed Ponyboy’s simple and direct telling of the events and circumstances the Greasers deal with. He does it in such a casual way, which seems to be in direct contradiction to the gravity of the events the story contains.

What I don’t think I knew the first time I read the book, and which makes the book that much more impressive, is the fact that Hinton wrote the book when she was 16 (after failing her creative writing class in high school). She sold the book to a publisher when she was 17, and it was published when she was 18. Knowing that this time around gave me a different perspective into Hinton’s seemingly simple style of storytelling. 

But while the story is simple in the way it’s told, her characters shouldn’t be described the same way. Hinton shows the foolishness of stereotypes, and how unreliable outward appearances usually are. The Greasers, while tough on the outside, demonstrate a lot of emotions throughout the book.

Stealing the adjective used with significance in the book, The Outsiders, fifty years later, has stayed golden.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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