Written by a sixteen-year-old girl, The Outsiders, is a classic and gripping young adult novel.. According to Random House Publishers, Hinton launched a revolution in YA literature. "Her realistic fiction novel is the first to share a honest view of what life is like for teenagers."
Written in first person, the narrator is a fourteen-year-old boy named Ponyboy. The book chronicles a period of time in the life of Pony, his two older brothers and a gang of friends known as the greasers. Fighting is a way of life between the greasers and a group of kids known as the socs for socials, or upper class. Ponyboy's parents were killed in a car accident and he lives with his two older brothers, also greasers. When a group of socs nearly drown Ponyboy at the park, his friend Johnny comes to his defense, stabbing and killing a soc. After this, Pony and Johnny flee and hide out in an abandoned church for a week before deciding to turn themselves in. As they go down the road a few miles and look back, they see that the church that they were in is on fire. They go back to check into it and are hailed as heroes for saving some children who were trapped in the church. Johnny dies after a few days in the hospital, dieing a heros death. Dally, a close friend and fellow greaser, unable to get over the death of his friend, robs a store and is shot to death.
After the death of the soc and his two friends, Pony questions the meaning of the fighting but goes to a rumble between the greasers and the socs anyway. He goes into a period of shock before he writes a paper for his English class, the topic to be of something of importance to him. His paper is this book which encompasses relationships with friends and brothers, societal prejudices, fear and teenagers lives realistically laid out.
The setting of the book is an American small town with two sides to the track, as it were. The haves (socs) live on one side and the have-nots (greasers) live on the other. The plot of the book is self (greasers) vs. another (socs). The two groups can not get over their prejudices of each other, causing violent and turbulent interactions between them. Viewed through the eyes of an discerning and intelligent greaser, the book gives the reader insight into unseen internal feelings and sensitivities of a seemingly rough and tough group of young adults. Ironically, I see the theme of this violent book as the value of friendships and relationships based on love and caring.
This was a surprising book for me in that I was not expecting to like it, but in the end I enjoyed it very much. This book went so much deeper than surface tensions. Digging into the thoughts and feelings of Ponyboy goes beyond just a story about violence, death, and poverty. This book puts human emotion into life in a beautiful and sensitive way. I was worried for Pony when, near the end of the book, he starts to harden and threatens to cut up socs with a broken bottle. As the reader, I knew he had so much potential for more and thankfully, he pulls through. The ending is hopeful.
S.E. Hinton. 1981. THE OUTSIDERS. New York: Dell Publishing Company. ISBN: 0-044-96769-4.