If you know me, you know I love The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. This was to me what Harry Potter is to my daughter. It turns fifty this year (glad I’m not there- yet). This book ha such an impact on me that years later, I still think about it. After seeing the movie so many times it is hard to know if the images I have in my memory are the ones I made from the book or the visuals from the movie.
The Outsiders was first published in 1967 and has sold over 15 million copies. It was pimped as “A remarkable novel about teenagers, for teenagers, by a teenager.” S.E. Hinton wrote it after she failed a creative writing class. I think the fact that she wrote it anyways, sent it to a publisher and published it two years later has a lot to say about her character.
For me, this book came at a time when I questioned everything in my life. Like most teenagers, I blamed everything wrong in the world on adults. They were the enemy. They were the ones who would end the world and me and my fellow teens, would rise victoriously and create nirvana. My parents divorced when I was young but got back together right before I started second grade. I knew early on that they should not have gotten back together. My father was an alcoholic and abusive to my mother and me. Reading became a magic carpet ride to a better life. I could be anyone I wanted. The characters in these books were so deep. The Greasers were noble and gallant. They were tough, but they also felt everything. They hugged and cried. They shared how they felt with each other and searched for some deeper meaning in the world. Heck, reading this book was my first real exposure to poetry. I started writing at this time and everything I wrote, looked like an Outsiders knock-off.
If you haven’t read it, you need to. I suppose when compared to today’s YA Lit, it may seem a little corny. There are no vampires or angels and the world has not changed into some kind of post-apocalyptic nightmare that only a select few who look good in leather will survive. Yet even today’s YA Lit, share similar themes. Would we have had Hunger Games, Maze Runner, or even Fifth Wave if we hadn’t had The Outsiders? I don’t know. But I think Hinton laid the groundwork and opened the doors for future YA Lit writers.