Review: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

January 21, 2011

Finally getting around to posting a quick review for my first book in Dana Huff’s Books I Should Have Read in School Challenge



i’m sort of ashamed to admit that i had never read S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders before.  Even more so because i’ve had it sitting on my shelf for a while now.  So this was the perfect opportunity.



After reading it i’m even more angry with myself for not reading it before this.  It was wonderful.


Summary: Ponyboy is part of a gang, the Greasers (lower class) in Oklahoma.  Their rival gang, The Socs (upper class) are rich kids who like to beat up Greasers.


i know that seems like a lame summary but it is the most basic bone structure of the book.  But there is so much more that doesn’t really fit into a summary.


First of all S.E. Hinton does an amazing job of creating a sort of timeless story.  Obviously there are a few time stamps here and there but overall this resonated just as clearly with me in 2011 as i’m sure it must have when it was originally published in 1967.  That’s pretty incredible.  There aren’t a lot of authors out there who can write something that can seem current 40 some years after it was written.


Hinton also does a great job of developing characters, they all seem three dimensional and real.  She lets us see them in strong and weak moments, allowing us to sympathize even more with them as we keep reading.


The plot moves quickly but not in a way that made me feel like i couldn’t keep up.  At first i wasn’t sold on the idea of a story about two rival gangs.  It just seems to have been done so much. . . and in a lot of ways this is a little Romeo and Juliet-y.  However, it is still fresh and not cheesy at all.  Obviously there are conflicts in the book and i loved that Hinton didn’t keep those conflicts only between the Greasers and the Socs- she lets us see the inner conflicts between Greasers and between Ponyboy and his brothers.


The idea of family is huge throughout the book.  Ponyboy knows that his family is not only blood related and loves the rest of his gang knowing that they would take care of him if necessary just as he would for them.  He also struggles with the huge differences between him and his oldest brother Darry.


We don’t all understand the violence that takes place in the book.  But we do all understand (and if you don’t, i’m shocked) feeling like an outsider.  The class differences divide the gangs in the book just as they can in the halls of schools.  We all know the feeling of wearing the “wrong” kind of clothes or shoes or bringing the “wrong” food for lunch or not having the latest toys or games.  And sad as it is, like people tend to group together.  Ponyboy is shocked when he meets Cherry and realizes he likes her as a person even if she is a Soc.  He realizes more and more throughout the book that judging people from a first glance isn’t right.  Something we all need to be reminded of sometimes, i’m sure.


i like books that run the gamut of realistic emotions and this one does an awesome job of it.  i wanted to cheer when Johnny, part of the Greasers, who everyone thinks is a bad seed just because he is a Greaser (there’s more to it than that but in general the Greasers are looked down upon) decides to step up and do the right thing.  He becomes this sort of heroic figure simply by deciding that he can’t live with his own conscious if he keeps hiding and lying.  Dally goes from being tough and almost too much for me to stand to being one of the characters who broke my heart the most.


So. . . if you haven’t read The Outsiders, you should.  It’s a quick read and it will stick with you in that lovely way good books do.


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