Book Review | The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

the-outsiders-book-review-paiges-pagesTITLE: The Outsiders
AUTHOR: S.E. Hinton
GENRE: Young Adult Fiction, Modern Classic

Who would have guessed a teenaged girl could write a global coming-of-age classic?   I missed out on reading The Outsiders in high school, but even as an adult reader I connected with it deeply.

On the streets of ’60s Oklahoma, 14-year-old Ponyboy and his gang of endearing but hormone-addled Greasers are at war with the upper-class Socs.  Then a tragic accident turns his life upside down.

When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home – page 1

Heart is probably the last thing you’d expect from a book about violence and class wars.  While The Outsiders handles some heavy socio-political themes, it delves much deeper than that, into the psyche of young people and their relationships.  Family, trust, and love are the key themes.  The loyal bonds between the boys are raw, creating an unexpectedly heartwarming dynamic.  I could go on reading their dialogue happily ever after.

Ponyboy is my new favourite narrator.  I settled into his unique voice in a matter of seconds.  His narrative style is chatty and tangential, letting us in on every little detail of his life and relationships as if we were close friends.  This open-hearted style is authentic to Ponyboy’s personality.  I found him instantly empathetic.

I also enjoyed how Ponyboy explores the different ways the classes perceive beauty and pain – being wealthy doesn’t make you happy or a good person, the same as having very little doesn’t make you dumb or unsuccessful.

Maybe Cherry stood still and watched the sun set while she was supposed to be taking the garbage out.  Stood there and watched and forgot everything else until her big brother screamed at her to hurry up.  I shook my head.  It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one.  Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren’t so different.  We saw the same sunset – page 33

In a word, I would describe The Outsiders as real.  After all, S.E. Hinton was a teenager writing about teenage life, set in a world she knew by heart.  She’s honest and taps into the core of her characters.  Every voice in this book rings true to me, and the emotion sizzles behind the dialogue.

This is a five star read because it achieved the most important things – entertained me with a narrator I instantly connected to, confronted me with vital questions about humanity, and moved me emotionally. There’s no age restriction or use-by date for this story.  

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