Module 2: The Outsiders

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Book Summary:

This is the classic story of Ponyboy, his brothers, and his friends all greasers in a small Oklahoma town.  They do their best against the odds of poverty and their lower class status to try and make ends meet and find some kind of happiness.  Living all the while with the added risk of confrontations with the upper class kids- the Socs.

One night Ponyboy and his friend Johnny get jumped by a group of Socs.  The fight ends with Ponyboy almost drowned and Johnny knifing a Soc to get away.  Dally one of their friends helps them escape to a nearby town where they live in a small abandoned church until things calm down back home.

Just as they are preparing to come back home, Johnny ends up severely burned after re-entering the church that was on fire and rescuing children who had wandered inside.  He’s barely hanging on by the time they get him to the hospital.

In the end, Johnny doesn’t make it.  But he has made an impression on Ponyboy and how he wants to lead his life.  In the end, he has shown Ponyboy that he is the one who can make a decision about what path to choose as he grows older.

Hinton, S.E. (1967). The Outsiders. New York, NY: Penguin Group (USA), Inc.

Impressions:

I decided to read this one because of its continued popularity with readers.  I work in a high school library and for almost any reluctant boy reader this book captures and keeps their attention and I really wanted to know why.  Now I did see the movie way back in my high school days and I liked that, so I was hoping the book would be just as good;  it was.

I think this book really speaks to the teen age experience.  Even if the reader is not part of a gang or gang-like group or part of the popular crowd, he or she is most likely part of some kind of group- that’s just the nature of high school.  Teens know what it feels like to be anxious about oneself and where he or she fits in the world.  Not to mention how to navigate in that world on your own, within your group, and within the larger group of the school and community.  This book talks about all of that in a way that makes it dramatic and life-altering; I mean Johnny ends up losing his life because the two groups cannot solve their problems in a way that does not involve violence.

Ultimately, this book is about how to grow up and make your own decisions in life.  It’s about choosing to move forward and make changes in order to not only survive, but also to succeed.  In the end, Ponyboy could have decided to coast by and just  do enough to pass, but inspired by Johnny’s last letter, he decides to actively try and make something better for himself and his life.

This book is about hope and the chance of a better life no matter how you start out.  I believe that the teens who read this novel understand and want that message.  Teens want to know that even if they mess up and make mistakes, there are still more chances out there.  I like that message too and now understand why this book has endured as a favorite for so many years.

Professional Reveiw:

“Few books come steeped in an aura as rich as S. E. Hinton’s novel ”The Outsiders,” which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. At a time when the average young-adult novel was, in Hinton’s characterization, ”Mary Jane went to the prom,” ”The Outsiders” shocked readers with its frank depictions of adolescents smoking, drinking and ”rumbling.” Although other pop culture offerings had dealt with these themes — most notably ”Rebel Without a Cause” and ”West Side Story” — their intended audience was adult. By contrast, ”The Outsiders” was a story ”for teenagers, about teenagers, written by a teenager.” Hinton’s candid, canny appraisal of the conflict between Socs, or Socials, and Greasers (for which one might substitute Jets and Sharks), published when she was 17, was an immediate hit and remains the best-selling young-adult novel of all time. ”

Peck, D. (2007, September 23). ‘The Outsiders’: 40 years later [Review of the book  The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton]. The New York Times Book Review.  Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/pages/books/index.html

Library Uses:

In a public library, I think this would be a great book to use for a book group.  After reading the group could meet to watch the movie and then talk about both.  Of course refreshments with the movie would be a good idea too!  Also, if you wanted to get people really motivated, the kids could come dressed as either a Soc or a greaser and there could also be a costume contest or everyone who dressed up could be entered in a drawing to win a prize.

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Filed under 5420 Literature for Youth

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