The Outsiders: Book Review

Kira Posner, Staff Writer

The Outsiders was first published in 1967, and anyone from the past few generations will recognize the title. Though the book might not be as popular now as it was when it was first released, a classic like this won’t be forgotten for a long time. My generation might not read this in high school, but that would be a mistake.

The book introduces 14-year-old Ponyboy Curtis and his gang. Ponyboy is a member of the “Greasers,” teenagers from the poorer part of town. The author, S.E. Hinton introduces the main characters and other gang members, including Ponyboy’s older brother, Sodapop, his eldest brother, Darry, and his friend, Johnny. Ponyboy and Sodapop are under the guardianship of Darry, who is the gang’s leader. Pony is one of the quieter members of the gang, and he tries to do right by his family, friends, and moral compass.  

The plot starts when Ponyboy is walking home from a movie alone. It’s late evening, and it is dark outside. No one else is on the street. The “Socs,” who are the rich kids on the other side of town, jump him. They leave him bruised and in pain on the side of the road. The Socs like to pick on Greasers. They had severely beat up Johnny before the beginning of the book, and left Johnny feeling timid and anxious. Ponyboy’s life goes downhill when the Socs try to beat him up a second time. Johnny was with Pony during the mugging, and although Johnny is an anxious and timid kid, he kills one of the Socs boys out of self-defense. 

One of the themes that stood out the most in this book is classism. It’s portrayed not so subtly, and the message is strong. The Socs are rich kids with tons of privilege, while the Greasers are a gang that everyone looks down upon. For most people in the town, the Greasers are thugs. They are dangerous and overall bad people in the eyes of everyone who isn’t one of them. Some Greasers indeed fit the stereotype, but most of them were unrightfully dehumanized. I found it especially powerful that the story is in the view of a Greaser, and Ponyboys’ perspective shows more than what meets the eye. It shows brotherhood, friendships, and extreme loyalty. Though people look down on Greasers, they have each other’s back no matter what, and they love each other a lot. Throughout the book, Pony learns from several lessons. 

This book held my attention throughout it; it was action-packed, and there were twists and turns at every corner. If there was a weak spot, it would be the beginning. The beginning of the book was entertaining, but it felt like it took a while for the plot to kick in. I also found it a little unrealistic that Pony and Johnny just ran away when things got bad. They didn’t think anything through or tell their loved ones where they were heading. There are also a few instances in which the characters lack common sense. One of these situations was when Pony ran away after a fight with his brothers, I thought this was a little irrational. He knew how much his brothers loved him and would be worried, but he didn’t think anything through, and acted childish.

One of the biggest problems I had with it was that there’s not much diversity in the book. The town where the story occurs seems to be a pretty white area. As I read the book, I wondered why there were no characters of color. The biggest reason I could think of about the lack of diversity is because during that time, authors often had white main characters. At first I thought that it was good that black kids weren’t stereotyped as gang members. However, I didn’t think that a book made in the 1960s would be so modern, and it really isn’t. I realized that the reason this particular racism wasn’t there is because another form of racism was more prominent. All of the gang members are the main characters, which is the reason why they’re white. No diversity or recognition of the issue is just as bad if not worse than racist stereotypes. 

Danger also escalated very quickly, and would sometimes take me a minute to keep up. For example, in the scene where Johnny and Ponyboy first ran away, one-minute Ponyboy is sitting on church steps eating junk food and talking with Johnny, and the next minute he’s in the hospital after a big fire. This was in the span of a couple of pages;  it seemed like the plot was going by really quickly and the author skipped a few steps in order to get from point A to point B.

At the end of the day, I was rooting for Ponyboy the whole time. He is very ethical throughout the story, and Hinton’s writing highlights his honest personality. The book took an unexpected turn towards the end, and left me feeling genuinely heartbroken. I had predicted a different outcome entirely and was very surprised by the ending, in a good way. Hinton’s ability to make the reader feel the emotions that the characters are feeling was really amazing. I’d highly recommend this book. It’s a pretty short read. I read it in about two days because I couldn’t put it down. The language isn’t extremely explicit, but I’d still recommend it to an older audience, as I feel they will be able to appreciate the book more than younger readers who might miss important overtones or overarching messages in the book. Overall I enjoyed the novel thoroughly. It’s full of life lessons, adventure, action, love and heartbreak. The book is a classic for good reason. 

Final Verdict: 7.5/10