So last night I finished book #39. It was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. It’s been a while since I cried that hard at a book. And it’s only 180 pages! Hinton created a cast of characters that are so easy to get invested in because you’re seeing them through the eyes of a pure, loyal, idealistic 14-year-old, someone I think everyone can relate to.
I was also in a state of disbelief while reading this novel. Why isn’t this story given to every teenager on their 13th birthday? It’s a great reminder that life can be beautiful and also unfair for every person living it. Ah, I loved it.
So the book takes place (I think) during the ’60s. Ponyboy, the precious young narrator I mentioned earlier, is being raised by his two older brothers and a gang of friends in the neighborhood. They call themselves ‘greasers,’ and that term defines them because they live on the east side and grease their long hair.
The greasers are constantly watching out for – and fighting when provoked – a group from the west side called the ‘socs,’ meaning ‘socials.’ These are basically the rich kids who get drunk and hunt down greasers to attack for fun.
One of these fights between the two groups involves Ponyboy, the narrator, and the other quiet member of the group named Johnny. This one is taken too far and the two find themselves fleeing town, wanted for murder.
Throughout the book, Ponyboy experiences several small changes of heart as he realizes that the turf war that he participates in as a necessity for survival is pointless, and the fighting doesn’t matter.
He’s just the best narrator because he’s hopelessly loyal to his brothers (who have been raising him since both his parents died 8 months prior) and hopelessly optimistic. The reader witnesses his revelation that the world is unfair – to greasers and to socs – for no reason at all.
Apparently it’s been made into a movie, but I think any actor would have a hard time capturing Ponyboy. I’ll probably still watch it eventually. It’s a heartbreaking book but also so hopeful and wonderful at the same time (and short, so everyone should read it). ◊
‘When you’re a kid everything’s new, dawn. It’s just when you get used to everything that it’s day. Like the way you dig sunsets, Pony. That’s gold. Keep that way, it’s a good way to be… There’s still lots of good in the world.'”
– Page 178 – 179, a letter from Johnny to Ponyboy