Saturday 13 September 2014

The Outsiders by S.E Hinton

I know a book's really good when I finish it and immediately put my name in the front of it (if I don't name them my sisters borrow them and assimilate them into their house claiming they 'thought it was theirs'). I haven't done it with any books except ones by Rainbow Rowell for a while, but that's what happened with The Outsiders. Ellie claims she didn't tell me to read it but just 'sneakily planted it in your mind thanks to repeated mentions on the blog' (direct quote from twitter), but either way I'm forever indebted to her and to Banned Books Week coming up for giving me the final push to read this beautiful, brilliant novel. 

The Soc's idea of having a good time is beating up greasers like Ponyboy. 
Ponyboy knows what to expect and knows he can count on his brother and friends - until the night someone takes things too far. 

That's all the synopsis I got on the blurb of my edition, and to be honest it's kind of all you need. The premise of The Outsiders is a little bit West Side Story - the Soc's are the rich kids, driving around in Mustangs, and the Greasers are the poor kids like Ponyboy and his brothers Darry and Soda, who hardly have anything. 

As usual I'm not going to talk too much about the actual story except to say that it's pretty great and not at all what I was expecting. In all honesty it's not the stand-out part about the book. For me the reason that I know I'll go back and reread it was the characters. I actually honestly loved them all. The Outsiders more than anything else is a story of relationships - the relationship between Ponyboy and his brothers and the members of their gang, between the Soc's and the Greasers, between reputation and actuality, between people... 

As usual, I read the introduction to my edition after I'd finished the book. Generally they're full of spoilers and more than one novel has been ruined for me by reading the introduction first, so I didn't find out till after I'd read it that S.E Hinton was only seventeen when she wrote this. To me that's just incredible. When I was seventeen I was still writing book after book of angsty, wallowing poetry. It was horrendous (I still have the books so if you don't believe me, I can prove it!), and here she is writing this incredible, insightful and really moving story about teenagers in which there's no stereotyping at all, as there so often is in books about teenagers. Ponyboy's observations about life and his ability to see through the 'us and them' reality he's grown up with to the people behind the labels is brilliant and in a lot of ways I wish I'd read this as a teenager - I think it would have resonated in a totally different way. 

In the same conversation with Ellie on twitter I was trying to pick out my favourite character and I couldn't. Even the ones who weren't nice at all had facets which made you root for them and I will give fair warning, this book is seriously sad, which is another thing which makes Hinton's age incredible to me. The events of the novel are dealt with in a way which feels so real - sometimes when a book has heavy events in it I feel like the author has contrived it and is trying to make me feel a certain way but I never felt that with The Outsiders. I felt like all she was doing the whole way through was saying 'here this is, how do you feel about it?' and I think I'll go back again and again to find out how I do feel about it. 

I wanted to rent the movie tonight but couldn't get hold of it, so it looks like it'll be going on the list to hunt out at car boot sales/charity shops etc. Basically I'm keeping this book because I want to read it again and again and also because I want my kids to read it when they're older. I will be mentioning it again in my Banned Books Week post coming up next week so keep your eyes out!


  1. This sounds really good!
    I miss sharing books with my sister, we don't really do this much any more.

  2. Ellie will be appalled but I've never read this book. Will go on the library website right away and see if I can get hold of a copy. (I too was the angsty-poetry-writing sort of emo kid, or would have been if emos had existed back then.)

    1. I'm not appalled at all! I read it for school, and would probably not have picked it up for years and years if I'd been left to discover it on my own. As it turns out (and as anyone who's been around my blog for a while knows), I fell instantly in love and basically my entire teenage years were influenced by this book and also Tex, by the same author. The movie theme still makes me well up sometimes. :)