Thursday, November 18, 2010

REVIEW: The Outsiders

Hinton, S.E.  (1967).  The Outsiders.  New York:  Speak.

180 pages.

To start this post I need to tell you a secret, internetz.  I know most would say it is unwise to share a secret on the internetz, but I think in this case it will be okay.

*Looks around for people who might be eavesdropping*

I haven't read The Outsiders before now.

I know, I know.  That pretty much makes me a YA failure, but never fear.  I am no longer a failure.

Appetizer:  Ponyboy (yes that is his legal name) and his friends are outsiders.  They're from the wrong side of town, they wear their hair long and everyone judges them on sight.  They're the greasers and they are constantly at war against the privileged Socs who live on the other side of town.

When a gang rumble goes wrong, Ponyboy and his friend, Johnny, wind up on the run, with their futures uncertain.

Okay, so over the past couple of years, a handful of students have raved about this book, and I doubted I would share their love.  I'd seen the movie.  I could barely pay attention to it.  Despite the fact that there were a lot of famous actors in the cast, I could keep the boys straight and couldn't remember their names.  (Sidenote--In the introduction to the "platinum edition" of the book, Hinton writes that the actors were a "group of sweet, goofy, incredibly talented and at the same time incredibly normal teenage boys."  *snort*  What happened, Tom Cruise?)

When my students chose to read The Outsiders, I pretty much assumed I would have to suffer through reading it.

Surprisingly, that was not the case.

It took a little while, I initially had to laugh through some of the slang, the fact that Ponyboy described how he wished he looked like Paul Newman, etc. but then I got to the first scene with Cherry Valance (Oh, what a name!) and I somehow got into it.  It was easy to get into the book on an emotional level and feel the frustration of Ponyboy and the other greasers.  This book rings of truth.  I couldn't help but feel for Johnny.

Based on the movie and some of my students' assignments, I had a general memory of the plot, except for the fact that I didn't remember who died when (see the part about not being able to keep the character's names straight--and that was still a problem as I read.  I mean, Dally and Darry?  Come on!  I won't be able to tell those two apart without cues.)

I wouldn't say I thought the book was perfect.  There were some moments when I felt the book told me things instead of showed me.  Plus, with presenting it to younger readers, the danger of the book seeming dated is very real.  But I think if a teacher focuses on the emotional truths he or she can still manage to reach a lot of reluctant readers.

Dinner Conversation:

"When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind:  Paul Newman and a ride home.  I was wishing I looked like Paul Newman--he looks tough and I don't--but I guess my own looks aren't so bad" (p. 1).

"So Dally, even though he could get into a good fight sometimes, had no specific thing to hate.  No rival gang.  Only Socs.  And you can't win against them no matter how hard you try, because they've got all the breaks and even whipping them isn't going to change that fact.  Maybe that was why Dallas was so bitter" (p. 11).

"Why did the Socs hate us so much?  We left them alone.  I nearly went to sleep over my homework trying to figure it out" (pp. 16-17).

"You take up for your buddies, no matter what they do.  When you're a gang, you stick up for the members.  If you don't stick up for them, stick together, make like brothers, it isn't a gang any more.  It's a pack.  A snarling, distrustful, bickering pack like the Socs in their social clubs or the street gangs in New York or the wolves in the timber" (p. 26).

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

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