Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Outsiders

Upon discovering last week for the first time the 1967 YA novel The Outsiders by author S.E. Hinton, I was surprised how much I loved it.

Why surprised?

Perhaps because of bad timing, I'd never heard a buzz about it anywhere, not in my unenlightened small town where I was a teen in 1967, and not in my MFA program years later in 2010.  There have been so many books published since then, that I never stumbled on it. It's embarrassing to admit.

The Outsiders is an absolutely fabulous book and written when the author was in high school. It was inspired by real-life conflict. The voice is believable and engaging. The characters and themes are universal. The warring factions in this novel, "Soc's" and the "Greasers," (in the photo above looking like my brothers did) are what might be called the "Preppies" and the "Punks" today.

According to S.E. Hinton about kids reading this today, " The uniforms change, and the names of the groups change, but kids really grasp how similar their situation is . . . "

The themes that are suggested through character and story address what we are dealing with today, that is, the false ideas we carry with us about those who seem different.

The plot? The rich Soc kids hate the Greasers, and vice versa. Rumbles, Death and pain ensue. As Ponyboy, the main character in The Outsiders discovers: just because the Soc kids have money and drive fancy cars, it doesn't make them good or bad or untroubled people. Likewise, being a poor greaser doesn't define them either. It is about the individual.

All teen would be wise to consider and discuss what diverse groups have in common.  What false beliefs do we all hold? There simply isn't room for so many "rumbles" on this very small planet.

One false belief I had about S.E. Hinton was that she was a guy. Well, she isn't. Now I know.


  1. The Outsiders seems to be the quintessential YA novel. Yet, more YA writers seem to mention The Catcher in the Rye than The Outsiders.

    1. I loved The Catcher in the Rye and read Robert Cormier who published his famous The Chocolate War in 1974. I was just surprised that The Outsiders was so outstanding and seems relatively unsung, from my point of view.

    2. I think people forget about The Outsiders and focus on Catcher and Chocolate War. I'm not sure why.