Friday, June 17, 2011

Book Review: The Outsider's by S. E. Hinton

Original cover
Author's site:
http://www.sehinton.com/bio.html

Link for the book @ Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Outsiders-SE-Hinton/dp/014240733X
Paperback Platinum Edition $8.00

Published originally by Viking Penguin in 1967.
http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780670532575,00.html?The_Outsiders_S._E._Hinton
208 pages/Fiction/Young Adult/Coming of Age/Gang Violence

An article was recently published in The Wall Street Journal entitled Darkness Too Visible by Meghan Cox Gurdon. This article has been talked about in other blogs and commented on profusely. It seems to have created a swarming beehive of strong opinions. But, in Meghan Cox's article she mentioned the book The Outsider's by S. E. Hinton. She noted that it was this book that began an industry of young adult literature period, and that it also began young adult books with the theme of, "family dysfunction and violent, disaffected youth." On Wikipedia it mentions that S. E. Hinton after this book was published was named "the voice of youth." On S. E. Hinton's website she expresses that she is a private person; by being a private person by nature it must have been startling to become, "the voice of youth." After reading the article by Meghan Cox Gurdon I made a trip to the library looking for this book (I never read it as a youth). I remember the film, but not the book. I want to mention that this book is on the list of most frequently challenged books 1990-2000. Considering the books that are proliferate on store shelves and libraries: books about witchcraft and demonology, books on vampire's and dragon's, werewolves and ghost's, and books with strong sexuality. Surely The Outsider's is no longer on "that list".

The Outsider's voice is from 14 year old Ponyboy Curtis. He and his 2 older brothers: Darry age 20 and Sodapop age 16 live alone--their parents died. These boys live in Tulsa, Oklahoma (not mentioned in the book, I read this on another site). Ponyboy is in school and does well, he could have a productive future.
All 3 boys are in a gang called The Greaser's. The other gang in town is the Socs, the upper crust society of teenage youth. The 2 gang's rumble often. The Socs are portrayed as being uppity snobbish forceful kids that want to put their dominance over The Greaser's. The Greaser's are portrayed as lost kids, settling for what life has handed to them, they are tough on the outside, yet have strong bonds for each other---treating each other as their family. Some themes in The Outsider's are "it's us against them", youthful vigor yet insecurity, dreams of something better yet not knowing how to get there, violence is the answer yet they find out it's not, and ultimate sacrifice of love. 
There are a few words that are reminiscent of the 60'-70's:
Greaser's
digs
for kicks
hood
hoodlum
weed
corn-poney
rumble
I'm surprised the word far-out was not in the book!

I found no cursing in the book (I feel I must always mention this for parents benefit). The violence in my opinion was tame. The boys smoke cigarettes and weed-- but it is added to the story minimally.
The strength in this book is the bond between The Greaser's. What they have is more than just friendship, they are a family unit with strong feelings of protection and sacrifice for each other.
I really liked this book and can understand why it was accepted so positively by youth when the book was published in 1967.
But, we've come a long ways since 1967, hmmm I wonder what young adult books will be like in another 44 years?

Blissful Reading!
Annette

2 comments:

Becky said...

I have never read this one, but then again there are so many books that I've never read. It was interesting to read your review and of the book's history in being challenged.

Annette said...

Thank you Becky!