The Outsiders

Book review by
Monica Wyatt, Common Sense Media
The Outsiders Book Poster Image
Story of ostracized kid a timeless fave of teens, preteens.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 30 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 188 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Ponyboy is tough but loves literature. He reads "Gone With the Wind" to Johnny and recites the poem "Nothing Can Stay" by Robert Frost when they are hiding out, which may inspire readers to check out these works. This aspect of Ponyboy's character conveys a message that reading is cool.

Positive Messages

True friendship is golden, even an outsider can find his way, redemption and forgiveness are possible.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ponyboy's gang, the Greasers, routinely engages in petty crime, although he avoids that behavior. He is loyal to his friends, a savior to some kids in danger, and is open-minded enough to see through Cherry that not all Socs are alike. He is also a great reader, and not afraid to show it.

Violence

A rumble between gangs is vividly described, but is mild compared with the gore teens encounter in media today. Ponyboy's brother, Dally, hits him when he comes home late. One of the main characters accidentally kills a rival in an attempt to save his friend. A dangerous fire breaks out and a main character is seriously injured.

Sex

A few casual references.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

 Some members of the Socs show up drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this story of peer pressure, rebellion, and identity centers on two rival groups of teens, the lower-class "outsider" Greasers and the more well-heeled, popular Socs (short for Socials). It includes fighting, underage drinking, delinquent behavior, a rumble, a fatal stabbing, and a suicide. But the indelible characters and compelling story have consistently hooked middle school kids, teens, and reluctant readers since The Outsiders was first published in 1967. This book appeals to preteens (many read it in sixth grade) because that's the time when kids break into social cliques and life becomes tribal. The feelings of being ostracized are timeless -- which is why this book is still so relevant more than 40 years after its original publication. Kids may also want to check out Francis Ford Coppola's 1983 film version.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 12 and 14 year old Written bycheesecake125 February 28, 2011

Educational

This book teaches kids about prejudice and violence as Ponyboy Curtis overcomes so. It could get too violent and language wasn't too bad, but I trust the... Continue reading
Adult Written byyami0204 April 9, 2008

>D

Ah, my favorite book in the world. However, it's not for kids. Well, not little kids. I first read this when I was 13 (which was about seven years ago)... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bygabec12 March 28, 2011

Great

This was a phenomenal book hands down. "Nothing gold stays" was the theme. It gives you a great message but a sad ending.
Teen, 13 years old Written bychowchowpoodle May 14, 2011
I am 13 years old, and I loved this book. We read it at SCHOOL for my english class, and i swear, the only thing i had a problem with was the smoking. The messa... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE OUTSIDERS has been one of the most popular book among teens and preteens since it came out in 1967. Ponyboy and his Greaser gang fight rival gang the Socs (short for "Socials," the wealthier, more preppie kids) and try to make a place for themselves in the world. The juvenile delinquent characters are fully and humanely developed in this realistic look at life, death, and growing up, told from a teen's point of view. The book was based on the author's high school experience in Tulsa, OK, in 1965, but the time and setting are not specified in the text.

 

Is it any good?

In the battle to get teens to read, The Outsiders is a nuclear missile. Any literary missteps -- like some too-easy plot resolutions --  are overcome by the power of author S.E. Hinton's honest teen point of view (she wrote it at age 16), which rings so true to young readers. 

Many teens say this is the first book they ever enjoyed reading, even though it's often required in school. Hinton's insight into teen angst may explain why adolescents identify with Ponyboy so strongly. Readers find plenty of action and an idyllic view of friendship, a major concern for teens. Teenagers love this book; it teaches them that they can enjoy reading, as Ponyboy already knows.

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why this book resonates with preteens and teens. Why has it remained so popular for more than 40 years?

  • What do you think happens to Ponyboy after the end of the novel?

  • If you've seen Francis Ford Coppola's 1983 movie based on the book, which do you like better, and why?

  • Why do you think The Outsiders is often required reading in school?

Book details

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