Book Reviews Young Adult Books

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

9 of 10: The Outsiders was everything I could have hoped it would be after years of hearing about it. Fast paced, great characters, sad, but hopeful.

So, you’ve probably never heard of this little-known book, but hey, it was pretty good. Wait, no. I’m probably the last person on the face of the earth to have read it.

This book is the grandparent of YA literature and it’s been popular for 30 years. For good reason.

Also, you know how sometimes you hear about a book for years and years, and you have sort of this idea in your head about the main plot? For some reason I totally thought it was about a bunch of boys living in cars. It is, well, not. I now know this.

Ponyboy (yes, his real name) is the youngest of three brothers. His parents were killed in an accident recently and his oldest brother, with a scholarship to college to play football, has stayed home to work two jobs and support the other two boys. The other brother, Sodapop (yes, also real name), has dropped out of high school and works as well. Ponyboy, who is a good student, is still in high school, but figures he’ll end up working as well after he graduates.

After all, the boys live on the wrong side of town, with little money, and they are considered “greasers.” The other greasers they hang around with carry knives or guns, fight, are in and out of jail, drink, smoke, and basically have no futures. And their biggest enemies are the Socs, the kids from the right side of town who seem to have it all: money, nice cars, the right clothing, and a future.

There is a plot, one that moves pretty quickly, but the real point of the story is the characters and the exploration of human nature. I continue to be amazed at S.E. Hinton’s ability to see so clearly what people are like and narrate it in such a moving way. I just can hardly believe she wrote this book at fifteen (published when she was sixteen). Her writing just appeals to me in a way that continues to surprise me.

I wish I hadn’t put off this book for so long; it really does deserve the hype. It’s sad, yes, with people in terribly difficult circumstances, finding themselves at the mercy of prejudice and bad luck, but also looking out for each other, finding good in hard times, and working to make life better. This book is, for me, in its own strange way an embodiment of the American dream.

Basically, if you haven’t read it, you should. Not only because it’s famous and popular, but because it is just a good book. One that will make you grateful for what you have and motivated to work to get what you want. In an unbelievably uncliche kind of way.

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  • Reply Camille August 5, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    This book is a classic! Loved it! Now, you should go rent the movie – lots of celeb actors when they were reeeally young 🙂 And it follows the story fairly well too.

  • Reply fluentbrittish August 5, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    This is no lie: I have a cousin whose birth certificate name is Soadapop.

    Sodapop Mark, to be exact.

  • Reply fluentbrittish August 5, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    And just in case you wondered, he goes by Soda.

  • Reply smillett August 5, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    I just watched Gone With the Wind this week for the first time. It is interesting to read/watch something after hearing about it for years and years. Like you, I thought that I had a good idea of what it was about (especially after watching Carol Burnett spoofs on it when I was younger), but I really didn't have a clue. There's nothing like experiencing the real thing.

  • Reply Kelly J. August 5, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Is it better than Tex? I really couldn't get into that one.

  • Reply Melissa August 5, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    I absolutely loved this story. Its a great book for people of all ages. I agree with Camille that you need to rent the movie.

  • Reply Angiegirl August 5, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Yep, the movie never fails to make my weepy. And I'm so glad you got around to this one. I love it so.

  • Reply Noelle August 5, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    I've never read it either. I might have to now!

  • Reply Megan August 6, 2009 at 5:17 am

    This was my absolute favorite book of 8th grade, and it has remained a favorite every since. I totally had a crush on Soda, even before I knew that Rob Lowe played him in the movie. I'm pretty sure that wasn't the point, but I was 13, so I should probably be excused. I do remember reading a followup though, and I threw it across the room. I'm not sure how I would feel about it now, but proceed to the book That Was Then, This Is Now with caution. Bleah.

  • Reply Lisa August 6, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    I read this for the first time as an adult too and was blown away. I remember it made me cry, but I can't remember why.

  • Reply heidikins August 7, 2009 at 5:24 am

    This always reminded me of West Side Story somehow…but without the ballet…or the Romeo/Juliet ending.

    Also, Britt: seriously?! That's awesome.


  • Reply Nathan Pralle August 7, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    This was required reading in my high school English course and if it's not when my children get that high, it will be in my house. Excellent literature doesn't get much better.

  • Reply Sarah August 13, 2009 at 5:05 am

    Totally my fav book in 8th grade too – even though it was required reading! – and movie: Tom Cruise,C. Thomas Howell, Robe Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Karate Kid guy, and more… I think I had a poster of all of them on my bedroom wall. Ah, to be 13 again… NEVER…

  • Reply Packrat August 15, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    LOL – I was going to ask you to rephrase the "grandparent of YA", but it was originally published by Viking Press in 1967. That makes it a grandparent! How is it that I haven't read it or seen the movie? Maybe because I was studying too much to have much pleasure reading time? Might have to read it. Some of my best friends were greasers.

  • Reply Alison Stewart August 19, 2009 at 2:28 am

    Ditto on Sarah's comment…my sister and I covered an entire wall in our room w/posters of all the "babes" from The Outsiders! Back then, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swazie…sigh- Never read the book…LOVED the movie.

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