Book Review: The Outsiders

Thursday 7 April 2016 by

The Outsiders, SE Hinton, Book, Reading, Penguin Modern ClassicsThe Outsiders by SE Hinton

Published by Penguin Modern 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 like Ponyboy. At least he knows what to expect – until the night things go too far…


Short on time, I decided to pick something that I knew would be a quick read. The Outsiders by SE Hinton is the story of Ponyboy and his greaser gang as they come up against the well-to-do Socs and the prejudice of the people in their town.

Ponyboy is the youngest of three boys, and the youngest gang member at just fourteen. But he soon finds himself embroiled in a situation much darker than he could possibly imagine. Assaulted by several Socs, he and fellow gang member Johnny have to go on the run after killing one of them in self-defence. But if that wasn’t enough, Ponyboy and Johnny have to deal with the juxtaposition between heroism and violence.

I read this book in a matter of hours – it was just so addictive. Fast-paced, easy to read, and engaging, it’s clear to see why it has become a modern classic. Ponyboy is a great narrator and the story is thrilling from beginning to end. Even when the story feels a bit Grease (duh) with added murder, you’re not put off.

This is simplistic, clean writing. The only gripe I have is the ending (you’ll see what I mean when you get there), and feel like it should have ended much sooner. But it’s a cross section of society that feels sharp and accurate. The voice itself is seamless – it seems to come out in one breath. There has been some likening it to Holden Caulfield and Catcher in the Rye, but trust me – this is so much better. The overwrought emotion, the slightly corny catchphrases, the over-complimentary descriptions, all sits well with Ponyboy as the dreamer-type character. He tries to remain wistful, even when the world is conspiring to make him “tough”.

If you have a spare few hours, definitely give this a try (and give up on Catcher in the Rye, it’s terrible). The themes this covers are distinctly complex and adult, but it reads like a Young Adult. The authenticity perhaps comes from the fact that it’s based on a true story (or at least, Hinton’s friends during her childhood in Oklahoma), and it is a brightly styled vision of 1960s suburban America. A thrill to read.

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