Recently I picked up a secondhand copy of The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton at a local book sale, mostly because I felt as though I was one of the few people who haven’t had to read it at some point in their educational career. After hearing so many great things about it, I was intrigued to find out why this short novel (less than 200 pages) has remained popular since its publication in 1967.
Fun fact: S.E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders when she was in high school. How impressive is that?! She soon became known as “The Voice of the Youth” and since then has written eight more books. Hinton is an excellent example of how young people can achieve extraordinary things, despite the obstacles they may face.
Here are my thoughts on The Outsiders, divided into strengths and weaknesses:
+ Character development and depth. Despite the short length of this novel, the characters have a surprising amount of history, personality, and potential for growth. You learn about the home lives, families, and past experiences of the majority of the characters, albeit briefly. It’s enough to make you feel connected with them and invested in their stories.
+ It’s both heartbreaking and heartwarming. It was certainly difficult reading about Johnny’s horrible situation at home and the death of Ponyboy’s parents, not to mention the tragic conclusion. At the same time, I couldn’t help but smile at the loyalty and friendships between the boys, especially that of Johnny and Ponyboy. These boys would do anything for each other, and are an ideal example of how family doesn’t have to be restricted to only blood relations.
+ The deep talks and literary references shared by Johnny and Ponyboy. For example, they read Gone with the Wind out loud to each other and Ponyboy even quotes a Robert Frost poem. I’m not sure how realistic it is necessarily that he would be able to recite this poem word for word randomly, but it makes for a good story nonetheless. Moments like these emphasize the facade they felt like they had to put up around the other tough “greasers,” when in reality they had sensitive sides to them like everyone else.
+ This story feels gritty, raw, and authentic. The lives of the “greasers” are fraught with social, financial, physical, and emotional struggles, and Hinton manages to capture them all. While the descriptions aren’t particularly graphic per se, they are nevertheless present and demonstrate how difficult their lives really were. Not only does the novel discuss family dynamics and violence on the streets, but it also addresses the issues stemming from the divide between social classes: the poor “greasers” and the privileged “socs.”
+ The ending. I’m a sucker for books that end in a similar fashion to this one– I just think it’s such a great way to come full circle and connect directly back to the beginning of the novel. It might not be the most original way to end a story, but in my opinion it remains a very effective one.
– The lack of subtlety. Personally, I feel as though Hinton could have been more subtle when addressing themes and moral lessons in this novel. I know this seems like quite a petty or insignificant qualm, but some statements are simply so obvious that it makes the reader feel as though the book was meant for someone much less observant or capable of deciphering meaning on one’s own. For example, at one point Ponyboy says:
“It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset.”
I understand that Hinton was writing for a young adult audience– or perhaps even younger– and therefore she wanted to get her point across as clearly as possible. However, passages like this quoted one struck me as overtly scrupulous in an unnecessary way. Again, this is a very minor complaint, but I thought I would talk about it nonetheless.
Overall, S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders is an inspirational and moving story of struggle, friendship, and overcoming odds. Having finally read this novel, it’s easy to see why it continues to be an essential component of any YA literature collection.
My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5 smileys.
Would I recommend it to a friend?: Absolutely!
What are your thoughts on this novel? Would you recommend any other works by S.E. Hinton? Let me know in the comments section below!
In the words of Johnny, “Stay gold.”