Tuesday, December 20, 2016

THE OUTSIDERS BY S.E. HINTON - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with a review of a cult-classic, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.


I feel like this is such a widely loved novel that I can't really give it a star rating. Like no matter what I pick, people will have their own thoughts and perceptions of what the book should get. And I suppose that could be said for all novels, but there is just something about giving a classic a number rating that doesn't sit well with me.

In case you don't know the premise of this story, it follows the perspective of a fourteen year old boy named Ponyboy (yes, that's his real name, says so on his birth certificate). In the town he lives in with his two older brothers, the society of teens (the adults don't really recognize this divide) is broken up into two main groups, the greasers and the Socs. Pony is part of the greaser side, known for being tuff and their long, greased hair. The Socs are from the better part of town, distinguishable by their 'clean' looks and general cold-heartedness. The main conflict in the story revolves around Pony and another boy named Johnny. Late one night, the two are confronted by a group of Socs, and Johnny ends up killing one of the boys. Before the cops get called, Johnny and Pony take off. There is some other stuff that happens, and some people die, but I'll just leave it at that.

While the story itself is fairly short and straightforward, it brought up a lot of key points that are still prevalent today. While the greasers and Socs were a kind of teenaged gang, they can be seen as representatives of societal divides. This book was written in the 60s, during the height of the civil rights movement in America, but you could replace either of these groups with minority groups or even groups of people discriminated against today.

Ponyboy talks a lot about wanting this division to be over; he sees the similarities between the groups that others don't see. At one point he talks about how they aren't so different from one another, they both see the same sunset every night. To readers today, these thoughts might be mundane, but I would imagine that back then merging such divides might have been controversial.

The story itself is told in a very quickly paced way, a lot is crammed into 180 pages of text.

I think there will be some people, especially those in my generation and younger who will really react to the messages of acceptance. But there will also be some who come up with new thoughts on the story. Some of the behaviour we see in this novel, specifically in the names the boys call each other, could be seen as something very different in today's society then I think it was meant to be in the 60s.

I know there was recently a lot of controversy over some tweets about Johnny and Dally's sexuality, if maybe they were gay. And Hinton shut those comments down like an English teacher demanding textual evidence. (you can see those tweets and read more of the story HERE ). I think while being gay in the 60s wouldn't be "cute" as the original tweeter mentions, I do think it is important that such options be open to readers interpretation. We don't see evidence of Johnny being straight, he mentions girls, but there is no moment where he professes his sexuality, and there are times when I thought of something between him and Ponyboy.

Regardless of this reading, I think the main message is that this story has stuck around for so long because people relate to it; it transcends time. Sure, we don't have greasers and Socs these days, but we have other groups divided amongst each other. People can and do relate to this story and that is why it has remained popular for 50 years.

Overall, it's a classic must read, if nothing other than for the experience.