S.E. Hinton’s classic coming of age novel is just as relevant to this ninth-grader today as it was when his mom read it in high school.
PARENT REVIEW | Kristin O’Keefe
I was a little hesitant to reread S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, a book I first discovered and loved as a teenager myself. What if it didn’t hold up?
Thankfully, aside from some dated slang words, the novel still rings as true today as when Hinton wrote it in 1967. Our narrator/hero is Ponyboy, the youngest in his gang of Greasers. The gang includes his brothers Darry and Soda, as well as Steve, Two-Bit, Dally, and Johnny.
The gang’s rivals are the Socs, short for “Socials.” Ponyboy notes their power: “You can’t win against them no matter how hard you try, because they’ve got all the breaks and even whipping them isn’t going to change that fact.” The Socs have their own problems, though—Cherry Valance admits her group can be “cool to the point of not feeling anything, always searching for something to satisfy us and never finding it.”
Many of the characters in this book exhibit a restlessness, a sense that they’re going to explode if something doesn’t happen. There is a confrontation, and things take an unexpected turn.
S.E. Hinton helps readers see beyond the Greasers’ hair and lifestyles and understand that decency is not the purview of one particular class.
Rather, decency and kindness lie with people who make the choice to do the right thing.
I was also struck by how much the 17-year-old author understood the importance of family. The saddest character is the one whose parents don’t seem to care or know he exists. In contrast, Ponyboy comes to realize that his oldest brother Darry’s strictness is an outgrowth of his worry and love for his sibling.
Hinton said she wrote The Outsiders because she wanted something realistic to be written about teenagers, not just another prom or horse story. Hopefully her success inspires other teenagers to look for stories that feel real to them—and if they can’t find those stories, maybe write their own.
Kristin O’Keefe’s work has appeared in Your Teen, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Grown and Flown, and Scary Mommy. She’s currently at work on her first novel; you can also find her on Twitter @_KristinOKeefe and Facebook at Kristin O’Keefe, writer.
TEEN REVIEW | Charlie O’Keefe
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is definitely one of my favorite books. It’s pretty short, so it’s a quick read, but it packs a lot in. I first read it in seventh grade and have read it two more times since then.
The book is about a group of lower-class boys called “Greasers” who are constantly being mistreated and abused by a group of upper-class boys, who are known as the “Socs.” A violent rivalry results in constant fighting, and the Greaser Johnny is forced to kill a Soc to save fellow Greaser Ponyboy’s life. From that point on, the book is about the two friends running away as fugitives and the aftermath that follows.
I think it’s interesting how the book portrays different classes of society and the conflict between them. Also, I liked the smaller theme of “everybody’s got something.” Regardless of social class, nobody’s perfect and you never know what‘s going on in someone else’s life, like when Cherry, the leader of the female Socs, tells Ponyboy that the Socs have their problems, too. I also love the theme of family, and seeing Ponyboy’s relationships with his brothers change throughout the book. He was different from his brothers, and towards the end of the book the oldest brother, Darry, started to accept that.
Overall, The Outsiders is a great book that’s definitely worth reading. There’s some violence and death, but you really feel like you know the characters—and for a short book, it has a lot going on.
I still can’t believe S.E. Hinton wrote this in high school.
Charlie O’Keefe is in ninth grade at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland.