The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
This coming-of-age novel is written by a teenager for teenagers. Susan Eloise Hinton was 15 when she started writing The Outsiders and 17 when it was published in 1967. The Outsiders is often credited as beginning the realistic young adult novel.
The story is about of a group of boys, ‘greasers’, living on the east side of Tulsa, Oklahoma in the mid 1960s.
The youngest member of the greasers gang is the novel’s narrator, fourteen-year-old Ponyboy Curtis, who lives with his two older brothers Darry (20) and Sodapop (16).
Darry works hard to care and support his two brothers after their parents were killed in a car accident – not an easy task for one just out of his teens himself. Sodapop has dropped out of school to work at the gas station, so Ponyboy feels the pressure to be a success at school. He is sure that Darry resents him and lives with the fear that he will be taken away and put in a boy’s home.
Sodapop and Darry aren’t Ponyboy’s only family – fellow Greasers, Dally, Two-bit Matthews, Steve Randle, and his best friend Johnny Cade are like his brothers.
The Greasers are constantly at war with the rival rich west side kids, the ‘socs’ (socials). This feud turns fatal one night when a group of Socs corner and attack Ponyboy and Johnny in a park.
Francis Ford Coppola adapted the novel into a film of the same name, released in 1983 starring C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, and Diane Lane. Hinton makes a cameo in the film as a nurse. Film is worth a watch after reading the book.
The Outsiders is a frequently challenged book and has been banned in many schools and libraries due to its portrayal of gang violence and underage smoking and drinking. Although today it is often a studied text in many high schools, which is fantastic because while the lingo may have changed it’s still as relevant today as it was in 1967.