A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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?
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