Is there a book that you feel as if you should have read? Or as if you are the only person in the whole wide world that hasn’t read a specific book? Personally, I have felt that way. And quite honestly, I have several books that fit description.
About a month or so ago, just after finishing my re-read of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I was scrolling through Libby (my library’s audiobook app) in search of my next audiobook. And then I saw it …. And decided that my next read, or listen, should be a book that I’ve been meaning to, been wanting to read for a long while: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.
Somehow the book has escaped me. I feel like I should have read this book many years ago while still in high school. But it was never assigned to me, and at that point in my reading life, I read only because I had to, not for pleasure.
I happy to say that I have finally read this book. And today I thought I would share some thoughts with you.
Even though The Outsiders has been on my book bucket list, I had mixed expectations. On one hand those expectations were high because everyone I know who has read this book said that I was missing out, that it was that good. But on the other hand, my expectations faltered because I knew nothing of the story.
Up front I want to say that I did enjoy The Outsiders. But was it a new fave? While I understand its value and why it is coined as a classic, it wasn’t necessarily a new favorite.
As I started reading this book I quickly realized that I had somehow formed my own assumptions – all of which were incorrect. For example, I knew that Ponyboy Curtis was The Outsiders main character, I knew that he was the narrator. But I (wrongfully) assumed that he was much older than his fourteen years. How did I make that assumption? The Outsiders was adapted into a movie with many high profiled actors of the time it was made. Most notably Patrick Swayze. Because he, as an actor, seemed to stand tall above the rest I assumed that obviously he as the lead role, he was obviously Ponyboy.
Imagine my surprise finding out that he wasn’t Ponyboy (I found out after reading and finally watching the adaptation that he was Ponyboy’s older brother, Darry). Finding out that this book’s narrator was only fourteen years old changed a lot for me. Seriously, it changed what I thought about what the story was about and how it would unfold.
Again, for some unknown reason, I convinced myself that Ponyboy was only a nickname – a ridiculous but good nickname. Finding out that Ponyboy’s real name was actually Ponyboy was eye-opening. At first I thought it silly, but by the books end I found I understood why he had such a unique name: Ponyboy, as a greaser himself, wasn’t like the rest of the gang. He was a unique character, and needed a unique name to reflect that.
As I dug into the book I quickly realized that The Outsiders is a character driven book. It’s cliche to say that, I know, but in this case it’s true. The whole plot revolves around a group of friends, and the lengths they’d go to to “be there” for those friends.
I appreciated that. The fact that a whole book was dedicated to friendship, and the bond and loyalty of those friendships, where there wasn’t a falling out, felt rare. And dare I say it, special.
Speaking of rarities, I found that, even though I gravitated towards one character, it is hard for me to actually pin down a favorite. I would say that they are all favorites but for many different reasons.
I gravitated towards Dallas, aka Dally, almost immediately. Dally may not be the typical fan favorite, but I felt that I saw beyond that tough guy exterior, and got to know him. He comes off as an unlikable character, but I found him to be wise beyond his years. More than that though, I found that he cared more about his friends than he cared about himself. Don’t get me wrong, Dally wasn’t a selfless character, but he also wasn’t as cold-hearted as he’s made out to be. But what I liked best about, specifically Dally, is that he’s a complex character, and an overall good guy.
The Outsiders was originally published in 1967. Because of that, I feared that this book wouldn’t be relevant. And you would think that since so many years have passed since it’s original publication, that our society as a whole would have grown.
And while we’ve grown in numbers, the sentiments and the issues that The Outsiders raised are still relevant today. Issues of social class and social justice are still very relevant to the world of 2019. At least I think so. And it’s because of this that I finally understand why this book is, not only a classic, but why it’s also still being assigned to students.
I had a feeling that I was going to like this book. In all honesty, I was expecting The Outsiders to be a five-star book for me. But it wasn’t. And the more I think about it, the more I realize why it is only a three star book. While I enjoyed it, ultimately it felt as if something was missing from the plot. And that something was action. There was no real action, and the moment that there was, it was fleeting.
While this definitely disappointed me, it didn’t ruin the book for me. It took me many years to finally get around to it, but I’m glad that I made the time to read The Outsiders. I’m glad that I had the chance to experience it.