Book Review: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The OutsidersI was passing my friend in the hall at church about a month ago and she stopped me to ask a literature type question, you know, because I read stuff.

And the question was along the lines of: if I were to see a shirt that said “Stay gold, Ponyboy” on the front, would I know what that meant?

Though the name Ponyboy sounded vaguely familiar, alas, I had no clue.

I certainly read stuff, but freely admit that I have not read many of the classics. Now, I vaguely knew the plot of this book before reading it because I had been to the CliffsNotes of this generation, Wikipedia, to look at the plot at some time in the past. Who knows why. I don’t remember. I guess I was too lazy to actually read the book even though I was curious about it. ‘Cause it’s not really my kind of book and I typically don’t go out of my way to read books that aren’t my kind of books. I’m a book xenophobe.

But I did promise to read and review a classic once a quarter this year so here it is, my first quarter venture into realms heretofore unknown: The Outsiders.

The setting is Tulsa Oklahoma in 1965. The  main character is Ponyboy… That’s his name. For reals. He lives with his brothers Darry and…Sodapop…Parents can be cruel in any century. The brothers are orphans but the eldest is twenty and takes care of the other two. They’re Greasers and they’re from the ‘wrong’ part of town and they have a few friends from their neighborhood who comprise their little gang. Their rivals, the Socs (pronounced SOSHes), are the rich kids from the other side of town and the two gangs tend to come to blows on a regular basis, which is where we get our main plot conflict (which I won’t ruin for you if you haven’t read it).

Published in 1967, the author was a mere fifteen years old when she started writing The Outsiders. She was eighteen at publication(!). Hinton was inspired by her friends at the time who were dealing with the kinds of issues presented in this novel. This is one of those books that has been considered controversial in the years since it’s publication because of the portrayal of gang violence or…something. Guys. Guys. Most of the the gang violence happens off screen and the stuff that you do ‘see’ is SO mild. Do we see the consequences of violence? Absolutely, but the only real on-screen stuff is one, fists only “rumble” between the rival gangs at the end of the book…But then again I read epic fantasy where people are impaled by swords and stuff so a fist fight is no big deal. Or perhaps I’m subconsciously comparing the violence here to actual, real world violence, which everyone knows is so much worse…Whatever the reason, I see nothing controversial here.

There is just one, tiny thing that made me cringe – but only because it’s a major modern writing no-no and it happened in the first paragraph. Since this book is from the 60s, it’s partially forgiven, but if you’re writing a novel right now, remember that it’s very bad form to have the main character describing himself or herself like their lookin’ in a mirror.  Just don’t do it, kids. Especially in the first paragraph. There’s always a better way to get those details in.

Overall I liked this book – in Goodreads terms that’s 3 stars! And at 192 pages, it’s novella length and a fairly quick read.

Stay tuned for more reviews!

Happy reading!

 

~ ebook checked out from the local library.

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