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In pop culture, YADA-YADA usually means "blah, blah, blah" or "more of the same." For this blog, YADA-YADA is an acronym meaning "Young Adult Discussions About Young Adult-Designed Art." Check out my summaries and reviews of teen media. Chime in and let me know what you think!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Blog No. 29 - The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

GENRE: Classic YA Fiction

Title: The Outsiders
Author: S.E. Hinton

Bibliographic Information:
Reading level: Young Adult
Mass Market Paperback: 156 pages
(Originally published by Puffin Books, 1967)
Publisher: Laurel Leaf (October 15, 1968)
ISBN-10: 0440967694
ISBN-13: 978-0440967699 Product Details
Grades: 8 and up
Interest: 9 and up

New York Herald Tribune Best Teenage Books List, 1967
Chicago Tribune Book World Spring Book Festival Honor Book, 1967
Media and Methods Maxi Award, 1975
ALA Best Young Adult Books, 1975
Massachusetts Children’s Book Award, 1979

Reader’s Annotation:
Ponyboy the protagonist in this classic story believes that two groups exist in the world: the “socs” who have money and attitude and can get away with anything, and the greasers, who live life outside, but are always “have the backs’ of their fellow greasers. One night, his friend Johnny kills a soc, and Ponyboy learns valuable lessons about life on both sides as a result.

Plot Summary:
Ponyboy, the narrator of this story, is fourteen, and a “greaser” from the poor part of town. Ponyboy is not a typical greaser--he loves both movies and books. While daydreaming about a Paul Newman film, he is jumped a gang of “socs” short for the socials—a rich group of kids who get away with everything. He would have been badly hurt, except his two brothers and the friends saw what was happening, and came to his rescue. The Socs are bullies. Once, they beat Ponyboy’s friend, Johnny so badly, that Johnny began carrying a knife for protection. The greasers are not safe walking alone; yet the community feels it is the greasers who are the troublemakers, largely because they look different and are poor. After this encounter, they decide to stay in groups. The next evening, Ponyboy, Johnny and Dallas (Dally), one of the toughest members of the greasers, go to the drive-in movies. While there, Dally harasses two Socs girls, and Johnny stands up for them. Ponyboy begins to realize that Socs and Greasers have some things in common. Later, at the park, Ponyboy and Johnny are threatened by some Socs, who are drunk—the Socs try to drown Ponyboy in the fountain, and Johnny stabs one of them. Ponyboy and Johnny think about running away, changing their hair to disguise themselves. But after one of the Socs, Cherry, says she’s testify on Johnny’s behalf, Johnny decides to turn himself in. On the way, there is a fire, and the greasers try to rescue several people caught in it. This brings on a dramatic turn of events, and the greasers face several more challenges which change their lives—especially Ponyboy’s.

Critical Evaluation:
This is a classic American novel that happens to be very important to Young Adult Literature—in fact, it is the first YA novel ever written! S.E. Hinton wrote it when she was only seventeen, and did so because she felt that the typical novels that students has to read at school did not speak to them. Because of this wise young author, young adult fiction was born.

The Outsiders deals with the important theme of class conflict, and the struggle one faces when there is a conflict between feeling loyalty to your friends, and being true to yourself. It is amazing that Hinton was so young when she penned this (most young writers usually write very plot-driven works), but Hinton’s book is rich with character—the sign of a mature and accomplished writer. While the details in the book are quite brief, they are nonetheless effective. The author is able to get her points across by use of slang, and a few short images. Hinston’s use of allusions—references to other books, films, or poems—also contribute to the setting as well as the character development. This book is a must read for everyone—written in 1967, it’s themes are still very relevant today.

Reading level/Interest Age:
The Outsiders is appropriate for an 8th grade reading level, but the content is more attuned to the high school student. All ages will enjoy this book, but it is also a very good choice for reluctant readers. .

Information about the Author:
Susan Eloise Hinton was born in 1950 and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She loved to read, and started writing when she was ten years old—usually about horses and cowboys. When she went to high school she could not find anything to read that interested her. She wanted books that had teen characters with teen situations. Finding nothing she decided to write one herself and The Outsiders was born. Susan Eloise changed her published name to S.E. Hinton, so that boys would want to read her book. The success of the Outsides enabled Susan to attend college, and get her degree in Education in 1970. She met her husband at college, and they have one son.

Curriculum Ties:
This book is a part of the YA literary cannon, and is on several schools recommended or required reading lists. However, it might be an interesting tie-in to the View Nam war, as that was happening at the time the book was written.

Challenge Issues:
This book continues to be one of the more widely challenged books in America, largely for its depiction of gangs, a pregnant teenager, and some violence.

Why I Included This Book:
It is the very first book to be considered “Young adult” and as such, every young adult should read it. I believe it is part of the YA literary cannon, and an important book with themes that ultimately promotes tolerance and acceptable of others.

Image Courtesy of http://www.sd68.k12.il.us/schools/orchard/lmc/Book%20Covers/outsiders.jpg

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