As part of my New Year’s (or thereabouts) resolution to read more classics, I re-read The Outsiders by SE Hinton. Not strictly a classic – no orange-and-white cover here – but Puffin calls it a Modern Classic and I’m happy to agree. Given that it was written in 1967 and I last read it in about 1984, I was surprised by how the themes still resonate – as does the language.
SE Hinton was 17 when she wrote the book and I’m incredibly impressed by the simple, straightforward way in which she tells the story. Especially now that I know how difficult that is. Ponyboy’s voice, as narrator, is clear and male – no mean feat. The characters are all well-drawn, given that we have a first-person narrator and only get one perspective. There’s a lot of Show, and we’re allowed to come to our own conclusions about them, even as we take in Ponyboy’s.
I think the one thing that really surprised me about the book was how much I’d changed. (That this surprised me surprises me even more…). When I read it the first time I was 15, and I wanted to be in the gang – or at least hold hands with one of them (particularly after I saw the movie). These days, I just want to take them all home and look after them.
The only parents in the book are dead or losers. Appealing in their absence when you’re 15. Sad and lonely when you have sons of your own.
If you haven’t read it, or haven’t read it for a few years, find a copy. It’ll help you remember a little bit what it was like to be a teen. Even if only what it was like to be you as a teen.