To be fair, I’ve read this book many times over but was compelled to write a review after finding my daughter sobbing on the couch with the book in her hands. As with almost all of my previous book reviews – I write this one because it was a book one of my children was reading.
You should not be put off by the fact that sobs elicited this review. In fact, it should be a testament to the fact that a book published in 1967 – 52 years ago, is still so compelling to young people that it creates an emotional bond which transcends language, societal norms, geography, and gender.
As I sat hugging my baby girl, her tears soaking my shoulder, I confessed that I too had cried over this book. She didn’t want to finish it, she told me; I urged her on. When my other daughter came to me later to tell me that she was crying again, I was encouraged. I know that sounds strange, but reading is a struggle for her. She doesn’t get wrapped up in books the way I do. It’s like pulling teeth to get her to turn the required number of pages each night. The Outsiders, however, seemed to turn the pages for her.
I had been hoping this would happen. Earlier in the week, my daughter had been excited about the poem she had written based on the first part of the book; she even spent much longer than she usually alots for homework, crafting it. For the rest of the evening, after she had finished it, she would spontaneously break into tears upon thinking about one or another of the characters.
So, I reread the book – so I could remember – so I could feel what she was experiencing.
Lest you think it purely tragedy and have not yet read the book, it isn’t. It is true that there are tragic parts, but the overarching concepts of love, sacrifice, and commitment are timeless and compelling.
The story, written by S.E. Hinton, a young teenage girl herslef at the time, takes place in Oklahoma in the early 60s. It follows the lives of a “family” of boys, both related by blood and chosen, as they attempt to navigate a world where they are confined to an underclass in a society which seems to value only the upper class. Theirs is a story of loyalty, friendship, loss, love, sacrifice, fear, strength, courage, rage, forgiveness, and constant struggle.
Despite the outdated slang, style, and way of life – the themes expressed in this book reach to the heart of anyone just trying to do their best in the world. It is a story primarily about being misunderstood while desperately trying to both understand and be understood by others. Perhaps this is why it resonates so well with young readers – it epitomizes the struggle of teenagers all over. In truth, I’d say it represents the struggle we all feel to make ourselves heard, to stay true to ourselves, and prevail.
It is a quick read. If you have a weekend, a rainy afternoon, or a break in your schedule to completely immerse yourself in another time and make friends with a bunch of boys just trying to survive, you will never forget it.