*This Review is Spoiler Free*
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In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the publication of The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, there is a new edition being released today by Penguin Young Readers Group (ISBN: 9780425288290). It is a beautiful hardcover edition that includes exclusive and never before released photographs and letters. To join in the celebration, I decided to do a review of one of my absolute favorite books. I can only hope to do it justice!
My first read of The Outsiders was as an assigned reading in Grade 9 (I’m pretty sure, but don’t quote me on that). It wasn’t until I read the novel again some years later that I realized that I absolutely adored it. My first time reading this, I got too caught up in the narrator’s voice. I found him to be a bit whiny, and I was not interested in the story whatsoever. Also, I didn’t actually ‘read’ the novel so much as I ‘skimmed’ over the vast majority of the text. I was quite the bull****ter when it came to required readings, and when test time rolled around I just wrote down what I assumed the teacher wanted to hear. When I was a bit older and re-read the story (actually reading it that time), I was able to do so without being disinterested with the writing of the 60s and the narrator.
Maybe the two worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset.
I really wanted to get around to reading The Outsiders again before writing this review, but between the time I found out about the anniversary edition and posting this review I wasn’t able to. With that in mind, I don’t remember every detail, theme and nuance about this novel but I will do my best to not just make this review a gush-fest and actually write something comprehensive. The story follows narrator, Ponyboy Curtis, a self-proclaimed greaser. In this novel the teens are divided by class and called either a ‘greaser’ or ‘soc’. A soc (short for ‘social’) is a privileged person who has money, has life easy, doesn’t have to work for much, sacrifices very little, and yet feels entitled to everything. On the other hand, greasers don’t have life the easiest and that is evident from the very beginning as you follow Ponyboy, his two brothers and their group of friends. As the story progresses, we begin to see that the lines between a greaser and a soc isn’t as definitive as it seems and that maybe there’s more that connects people than where they live and what socioeconomic class they were born into.
For many, The Outsiders is considered the OG of Young Adult Fiction. Maybe it’s the fact that S.E. Hinton was only a teenager herself when she wrote this novel, which allows it to resonate so well with teens. Although the novel doesn’t lose any of it’s luster with an older audience it just has this magic about it that allows so much of the themes to be grasped by a younger reader. A lot of people read this story as a required reading in junior high and/or high school, but even without the classroom discussions you are able to see that Hinton tries to highlight issues such as class, identity, poverty, ‘othering’, etc. The main emphasis of this story does seem to be on class, but the story can easily also be applied to other topics such as race and sexuality. Various forms of media have made teen angst into a cliched topic, but this novel portrays numerous different issues that plague many different teens in a way that is honest.
They grew up on the outside of society. The weren’t looking for a fight. They were looking to belong.
The Outsiders may not be the most important work of YA ever written, but it has accomplished a lot. The novel most definitely will have a special place in YA and the contents can easily be enjoyed today. It is a novel that I would recommend to older teens, not because younger teens would be unable to understand it, but because there is just so much more to the story than meets the eye. I would still very much so recommend this novel to younger teens, there isn’t really any mature sexual content or violence that you wouldn’t see on television at any time of the day, and the level of readability is such that a younger teen would absolutely be able to read it without any difficulty comprehending. I give The Outsiders a rating of 8 out of 10 unicorn horns.
Stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold.