My Life In Books: The Outsiders

This book was on the curriculum for Grade 7 English.  Quite a strange book to study at school, I thought at the time. Up until then, I’d thought that all books studied in English class had to be classic literary masterpieces, and here we were being presented with a contemporary mass market paperback.

It’s effectively the story of a gang of teenage boys in the 1960s, all of whom are from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’.  The narrator is Ponyboy Curtis, a sensitive young man who writes poems, but his sort aren’t encouraged to follow artistic pursuits.

The year we studied this book, the film was released, so a class trip to the cinema to see it was entirely justified.  I quite liked the film, but I admit it was hard to hear much of it.  This is a film packed full of hunky young actors (most of the so-called ‘brat packers’ were in it).  Take a class full of hormonal 14-year-old girls to see it, and they aren’t going to be following the story.  In fact, in retrospect I feel quite sorry for all the other cinema patrons. What must have been going through their heads when we all trooped in for the matinee showing?

All of my classmates were swooning over either Patrick Swayze or Rob Lowe (or sometimes both).  Me, I decided I liked C Thomas Howell, who played the artistic Ponyboy.  It was more the character than the actor, I suppose – I’ve always gone for the sensitive artistic types.

In googling the image for this book, I came across a load of Grade 7 book reports on the Internet, so it would appear that it’s still on the curriculum for Grade 7 English, 30 years later, which I find very interesting. Then again, a book about a group of teenage outsiders will always hold universal appeal for teenagers, no matter what decade it is.

I am including here, as well as the book cover, the movie poster featuring all the stars, adopting mean and moody poses. No wonder, as adolescent hormone factories, we all got a bit flustered…

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1 comment so far

  1. Sonya Clark on

    I think the fact that SE Hinton was a teenager when she wrote it has helped make the book resonate with kids, even after all these years. There’s this sense of “she gets it” even though that early 60s world in which the book is set is long gone. I remember the movie too. It was so full of eye candy, it was ridiculous. Sodapop! That was the beginning of my Rob Lowe phase. 🙂


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