Published by Speak on April 24, 1967
Genres: YA, Classics
In Ponyboy's world there are two types of people. There are the Socs, the rich society kids who get away with anything. Then there are the greasers, like Ponyboy, who aren't so lucky. Ponyboy has a few things he can count on: his older brothers, his friends, and trouble with the Socs, whose idea of a good time is beating up greasers. At least he knows what to expect-until the night things go too far.
Classically Carlisa is a new feature where I talk about book that are, well, classics. I love classics but I find myself always choosing the newer titles over the old yet beloved. I’m hoping this feature will get me going so I can continue reading and loving various classics throughout English history.
So I’m taking a YA literature class right now. For college credit. So, basically, I get to do what I do all the time anyways…but get a grade for it. Which kind of makes it more stressful but also kind of makes it more awesome. But the first book we had to read was The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton, a book I had surprisingly never read before.
*Pause for audience’s gasps of shock and perhaps outrage*
Yes, I know. But it was never required for me in high school and, honestly, it’s not something I would just pick up off the shelf, tilt my head slightly, and sigh wistfully at the summary, knowing I must have it. It’s a book about a bunch of greasers, a bunch of tough guys who I wouldn’t think I’d relate to on a first glance. I’m gonna be honest, I’m pretty much a goody-two-shoes. I don’t swear, I don’t cheat, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs. All by personal choice. I’m happier that way. So it would seem that I’m very opposite from these kids. From high school drop-outs and smokers and gangs and little punks and long, greasy hair, and lying, and criminals.
But that’s kind of the point of the book. Different isn’t synonymous with bad. I don’t often write in my books, but there’s a line around the middle that I couldn’t resist because it seemed to sum up all 180 pages with such simplicity: “It’s the individual.” The full quote goes like this:
Randy pulled out a cigarette and pressed in the car lighter. ‘I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore. I would never have believed a greaser could pull something like that.’
‘”Greaser” didn’t have anything to do with it. My buddy over there wouldn’t have done it. Maybe you would have done the same thing, maybe a friend of yours wouldn’t have. It’s the individual.’
And I was struck by that. With the simplicity of a three-word sentence, it carries such power and meaning. Though there are the Greasers and the “Socs,” rivals and seemingly opposites, this book tries to take down that social barrier between them. Though everyone does this on a regular basis, Hinton is trying to tell us that we can’t judge groups as a whole. It’s the individual.
And I just loved that.
This is a powerful story and a fast read. A classic that has helped shape Young Adult literature into what it is today. It’s a story about friendship, about family, about social barriers and classes. And even though we’re coming up on it’s 50th anniversary, the power of this small novel remains as strong as ever.
So stay golden, Ponyboy, and read this book.