“Stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold.”
Synopsis: The Outsiders is about two weeks in the life of a 14-year-old boy. The novel tells the story of Ponyboy Curtis and his struggles with right and wrong in a society in which he believes that he is an outsider. According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for “social”) has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. Ponyboy is a greaser, and he’s always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers–until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy’s skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser.
Publication Date: 2008 (first published 1967)
In grade 7, we were assigned S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. Though we were only supposed to read a chapter a day, I finished the novella in one night … unable to put this incredibly beautiful and moving story.
Now over a decade later, Meghan @ Meghan’s Whimsical Explorations & Reviews and I decided to re-read this classic tale … and to my great delight, it’s STILL one of my all-time favourite novels. Capturing such intensely raw and real emotions in her novella, Hinton opens readers to an in-depth look at the kinds of pressure society places upon youth and the effects these stigmas have for years to come.
↠ Pro 1. The language use TRULY feels as though we are reading from Ponyboy’s own words! Technically it is, since Hinton IS the characters she creates … but it’s more than that. The writing style used reflects that of a 14 going on 15 year old teenager, using slang and terminology that reflects his character. When he’s scared or happy or anxious, you FEEL this through the words written. The voice used is so honest and real, you forget that this story and the characters within it are all fictional.
↠ Pro 2. Hinton’s unfiltered and real look at societal pressures from multiple points of view is phenomenal. There are two major groups in this novella: the Greasers and the Soc’s. The Greasers are from the poorer end of town whereas the Soc’s are the “rich kids with all the breaks”. But early on, readers start to see that both of these opposing forces have their own demons and pressures to face in life. What at first seems like a black and white themed story becomes a tale discussing how stigmas and labels can really impact anyone from any class or group.
↠ Pro 3. There’s a great deal of character growth with the main character, but still leaving room for more in the end. Ponyboy Curtis (yes — this is his real name) is both the main character and narrator of The Outsiders, and boy does he have some epic character growth going on in this novella. At the beginning, Ponyboy’s not naive about the harsher realities of the world — but he doesn’t fully see the BIGGER picture. As the story progresses, he starts to realize how things aren’t as “matter of fact” as he originally thought — not all Soc’s are violent and cruel, not all Greaser’s are proud to be a Greaser, his connection with his brothers and the gang’s more than what he realizes, and his daydreaming and empathetic personality is something to be proud of. Ponyboy still has a lot to learn at the end of the novel, but he’s only 15 years old! Hinton’s room to provide Ponyboy more space to grow just made the ending feel that much more authentic.
↠ Pro 4. Hinton’s story hits a number of powerful messages regarding the importance of life, family, friendship and learning to find yourself. The number of levels this book brings mind-blowing. The Outsiders isn’t simply about a fight gone wrong … it’s so much more. Hinton teaches readers to cherish the people and moments in our lives, for life is constantly flowing and nothing lasts forever. Learn who you are and be proud of it — don’t let the world change you. But it’s not just what kinds of messages Hinton provides … it’s HOW which makes this book so memorable — adding poetry to help illustrate a theme from real life poets, having readers reference other fictional works that many of us grew up loving, etc. By adding works and poems from the real world, it adds a deeper level of connection to our own lives — especially since the pop culture references are well-known.
↠ Woe 1. Hinton’s novella is so captivating, but I wish there was more content. The ONLY downfall of this beautiful story is how short and linear it is — probably due to the fact that this story is REALLY about Ponyboy’s experiences and how these events change him forever. But getting to know all of the other Greaser’s and even the Soc’s made me want to have more “small yet meaningful” moments — the coffee hangouts, the “watch TV and open up about our feelings” nights, going out to town and unveiling more about ones past, etc. When I reached the last page, I felt as though there was still so much more that could’ve been explored throughout the story.
Hinton’s The Outsiders is such a powerful story — making this one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever written. For a book just around the 200 page mark, Hinton sure knows how to pull at those heartstrings and make readers really THINK about the major themes discussed. I cannot begin to express how much love I have for this story, one I truly hope many of you decide to pick up.
I DO recommend this novel if you enjoy:
↠ Character growth
↠ Exploring serious and heavy topics
↠ A quick read
↠ Books focused on friendship and family
I DON’T recommend this novel if you dislike:
↠ Short stories
↠ FAIRLY linear plots
↠ Mainly male focused cast
Have you read Hinton’s The Outsiders?