When I was looking for some “literature” books to give to Mr. Curiosity to read this year, The Outsiders was commonly suggested. It seemed age appropriate and well received by many people, so I decided to go for it. I’m reading all the books I’m assigning him to read so we can talk about them. I don’t think I ever read this one in school (or saw the movie). I can’t really remember what books I read in middle school English, but I do know if I’ve read a book before after I start reading it.
Published: 1967 (so it’s not like it was too new for me to have read in middle school, unlike, say, The Giver)
Genre: YA fiction
Length: 180 pages
Setting: outskirts of a big city (for some reason, I thought it was NYC), 1960s
Summary: Ponyboy is a Greaser and, at 14, is the youngest member of his gang. He lives with his two brothers, Sodapop and Darryl (aka Darry) since their parents were killed in a car accident a few months ago. Pony is pretty smart for a greaser, but that doesn’t translate into street smarts. He’s always doing stupid stuff (like walking home from the movies by himself and getting jumped by a bunch of Socs) and being bailed out by his gang and yelled at by Darry. Things come to a head when Johnny kill a Soc that was drowning Pony. They hop a train and hide out in an abandoned church for a while. They get back just in time for the big rumble between the Greasers and the Socs.
Final thoughts: I’m happy to report that this book lived up to its reputation. Mr. Curiosity read it in two days and didn’t want to put it down, which I will consider a success. The book had some pretty heavy themes – us vs. them, what is takes to belong, the value of friendship and family, but it wasn’t obnoxious about them. You just care about Ponyboy and his world from the beginning. Ponyboy thinks a bit more about WHY things are the way they are than the other members of his gang, except maybe Johnny. Why do the Greasers and the Socs have to fight all the time, and are they really that different? Turns out, they all have their own problems and nobody’s life is perfect. The trick is to find good friends and stick with your family to get through all those troubles that are coming up.
On an unrelated note, the book we got had an interview with the author at the end of the story. Did you know S.E. Hinton was 16 when she wrote the book? She essentially wrote a book she wanted to read, because at that time there weren’t many YA books out there. Impressive!
Title comes from: The Greasers were outsiders and Ponyboy was an outsider within his group.
Reading challenges fulfilled: #85 in my Maybe 100 This Year Challenge
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