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The Outsiders
By S.E. Hinton
ISBN: 9780143039857
Publisher: Penguin Books (First Published with Viking Press)
Date of Publication: 1967

Reader’s Annotation:
Ponyboy Curtis, a Greaser, finds himself in trouble after an attack from a Soc.

Plot Summary:
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, there are two sides, two types of people; the Socs who are the rich kids and the Greasers who struggle to make ends meet. Ponyboy Curtis is a one of the greasers. With his parents dead due to a tragic car accident, Ponyboy’s older brothers, Sodapop and Darry, work hard to support the family while pushing Ponyboy to finish school. Ponyboy sometimes resents that he’s forced to focus on school, never understanding the sacrifices his brothers have made to support his eduction.

Ponyboy’s best friend is Johnny, a boy who has suffered too much violence in his young life. Together, Ponyboy and Johnny make up the younger part of their Greaser group, alongside their reckless friend Dallas, Two-Bit and Steve. One night Ponyboy meets Cherry Valance, a doc who helps Ponyboy to break down the ideal barriers of the Greasers versus Soc mentality. That same night, Ponyboy and Johnny face-off with Cherry’s boyfriend, Bob. What happens from that encounter changes everything for Ponyboy and he must face the consequences of that night and the actions that followed. In the end, Ponyboy discovers what it means to have a label and that a family is what we have when we stand by the ones we love.

Critical Evaluation:
S.E. Hinton’s tale of different social classes have stood the test of time mostly because Hinton wrote from personal experience. Hinton felt that her generation wasn’t being portrayed honestly in Young Adult fiction and set out to tell the truth about her life.

This is a a story about social struggle and how being a teenager doesn’t change that struggle but sometimes makes it worse. Ponyboy knows that his life isn’t ideal and as a teenager, his voice is constantly ignored by those who have his “best interest” at heart. But like millions of teenagers across the globe, Ponyboy feels misunderstood and begins to find his voice in the midst of all the confusion.

Ponyboy’s relations to the social class scheme is an important lesson for readers in that it shows the world is not fair and never will be. What’s important is that a connection is formed with friends and family that will last a lifetime. That support is important in that it shows it’s not easy to go through life alone. An example of this would be in the action of Dallas, who suffers for being a loner, despite his varied personal connections.

The story still resonates with Young Adult readers in that the concepts of alienation and social class remain prevalent, even more so in this ultra-connected society.

The A.V. Club on The Outsiders

Information about the Author:
From S.E. Hinton’s Webpage, Hinton first published The Outsiders as a response to lackluster teen novels that had been published in the 1950s and 1960s. Being a teenager herself, Hinton wanted to present a story in which a reader would understand the real issues that faced teenagers.

After the publication of The Outsiders, Hinton found that she was experienced writer’s blog and didn’t write anything new for three years. Luckily, her future husband encouraged writing bits at a time until she eventually finished the book That Was Then, This is Now. Hinton continued to write Young Adult literature, growing in strength as a writer. She has also written the adult novel, Hawkes Harbor.

S.E. Hinton’s Webpage

Genre:
Realistic Fiction, Family Relationships

Curriculum Ties:
Drama, Classic American Literature

Booktalking Ideas:
What would you do for your family?
What would you do for your friends, if they were threatened?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
As the book was written when Hinton was in her teens, the book has an intended audience of such. Recommended age range would be 15 and up.

Challenging Issues:
The Outsiders is a frequently challenged and banned book. Complaints against the book cite gang violence and obscenities as some of the reasons. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged again in the future.

Why did I include this book in the titles selection?
This book pushed the boundaries of what teens read in the 1960s. The story still resonates with teen and adult readers. While there are some faults with the narration of the story, the themes of alienation and family/friend connections are issues that teens continue to face. This is a book about teens, written by a teen for teens.
Reference:
Hinton, S.E. (n.d.). Biography. Retrieved from http://www.sehinton.com/bio.html

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