"What kind of world is it where all I have to be proud of is a reputation for being a hood, and greasy hair?" - from The Outsiders
What's it about?: The Outsiders is the classic story of two rival youth gangs in the 1960s. The Greasers are a rag-tag band of poor kids, while the Socs (Socials) are a group of rich, arrogant kids from the wealthy west side. Within this story are the histories of the individual members of the Greasers. Ponyboy, Sodapop and Darry are brothers left to fend for themselves when their parents are killed in a car accident. Johnny, another Greaser, is shy and tentative due to the fact that his parents abuse him. Dally, the last Greaser, is the toughest of the group.
When a couple of Soc girls fall for members of the Greasers clan, members of the two gangs end up face to face. One of the Socs attacks Ponyboy, causing Johnny to panic and stab him to death. As a result, Ponyboy and Johnny are sent by Darry to lay low in a church just outside town. They hide out for a few days before deciding that they want to turn themselves in. However, before they leave the church catches fire and the boys realize that a group of small children have wandered inside. The boys rescue the children, but at a steep physical price. While in the hospital the boys have a chance to reflect on their lives, their ambitions and what they hope to do once they heal up. Unfortunately, not all of the boys do.
Why your child should read it: S.E. Hinton lamented the lack of quality fiction available to teens in the 1960s, so she took matters into her own hands and wrote The Outsiders when she was only 15 years old. At its core, the book is about social divisions, class struggles and coming of age in less than perfect circumstances. But it's also about a group of boys who don't fit in with the societal ideal, who make mistakes but also always stick together in any situation. The language, due to Ponyboy's narration, is easy to understand and littered with slang, making it very relatable to younger readers. The novel can also be quite humorous at times, despite the sometimes heavy nature of the story. Overall it's a very relevant story that teens have been enjoying for over 40 years. Unless, of course, they're a Soc.