As our “Best YA Novel of All Time” bracket continues, we’re unveiling our picks, which didn’t advance as far as we would like. Here’s the case for S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders.
The Outsiders taught us that nothing gold can stay. And since it was eliminated from our bracket game, I guess the adage is true. But it seems like Robert Frost and S. E. Hinton failed to consider the staying power of a highly influential YA novel. The Outsiders was published more than 45 years ago, but it’s still gold in my eyes.
I’ll admit it. This choice is wholly and completely biased. I was born in Tulsa, Okla., and raised in its suburb, Broken Arrow. (Yes, that’s the city’s real name.) If your required-reading memory serves you well, you’ll recall that Hinton’s debut novel is set in Tulsa, and based on the socioeconomic divisions Hinton witnessed there. I personally never faced any gang violence growing up in Tulsa, and was fortunate enough to not have to deal with the kind of class issues the Greasers and Socs tackle. And yet I always found the coming-of-age tale highly relatable. It’s more than just my Tulsa connection. That’s the beauty of the book. Change a few of the details and you can likely come up with the Greasers and Socs of your own adolescence. Sure, your formative years were likely less violent than Ponyboy’s, but you can’t deny the book’s universal appeal. And that’s even with the tear-inducing death of (spoiler alert!!) Johnny.
Finally, I realize this is a book competition, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 film adaptation. Because it certainly doesn’t hurt that every time I think of the novel, I picture the never-aging, always-dreamy Rob Lowe as Sodapop Curtis.