Book Spotlight | The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

A soc has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. 

The Outsiders

The Outsiders is widely accepted as the first ever “proper” Young Adult book. It was published at a time when books for young adults were, as author S.E. Hinton says, “Mary Jane wants to go to the prom with the football hero and ends up with the boy next door and has a good time anyway.”. Or horse books.

It’s the story of a gang of “greasers”, who have a long-running rivalry with the “Socials” or “Socs” – who’re essentially the jocks in this scenario. Think Grease, but with fewer cars and lots of drama and bloody fighting instead of pink ladies and singing. Hinton was sixteen years old when she wrote it. Respect to her. When I was sixteen I could barely get out of bed and she wrote a friggin’ classic.

The Outsiders has been banned in a number of schools because it portrays gang violence, underage smoking and drinking and a bunch of other “sensitive stuff”. Ironically, Hinton points out in the edition of the book that I have that “every teenager feels that adults have no idea what’s going on”. GEE.

Banning books is dumb. Books like this can open up discussions and give young people an avenue to feel like they have a voice, instead of feeling adrift. Hinton was a teenager when she wrote The Outsiders, articulating the gritty, grubby, very real issues she was seeing in her school and neighbourhood. More than a few of these are still relevant today.

Stay gold, Ponyboy.

Rating: *****

A round up of books

I keep thinking “Right, Kirsty, given that you’ve got the word ‘Paperback’ in your blog name, maybe you should talk about books some more”. I keep meaning to review books that I’ve read and liked, but of course I never get round to it. Life and all that.

So to start off a trend of actually talking about books, here’s a quick run through some Books I Have Read And Thoroughly Enjoyed In The Last Few Months And Not Talked About Yet.

Editing Emma – Chloe Seagar

Editing Emma

Rare is the book that makes me ugly laugh out loud in the middle of the night, but Editing Emma managed it. I won a copy through Twitter after sharing my most embarrassing teenage moment. (My orange stripy hair has finally redeemed itself after over a decade.)

Editing Emma is of the best YA books I’ve read this year. As well as being hilarious, it’s refreshingly honest about what it’s like being a teenage girl in the social media age. (I hate writing that, because it makes me feel like an old lady, but it’s true.) It’s refreshingly honest about what it’s like being a teenage girl full stop, actually, and there’s things touched upon that are very rarely, if ever, mentioned in YA. I loved it.

There was a particular scene involving a Facebook messenger mishap that made me cringe so hard I nearly turned myself inside out. WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE. DON’T TELL LIES.

Hings – Chris McQueer

Hings

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up Hings. Having finished, I’m not entirely sure what I’ve experienced. It’s the most bizarre series of stories I have read in a long, long time. I loved it.

‘Korma Police’ features a house raid in a curry-prohibition world. There’s a story where the world wakes up with backwards knees. ‘Bowls’ is a crime saga set against the backdrop of Glaswegian bowling greens. There’s a story called “Pish The Bed”. It’s like a series of Burnistoun sketches on a cocktail of drugs. It has to be seen to be fully appreciated, but I would thoroughly recommend if you like surreal escapades through working class Scottish communities. You probably do. Even if you don’t know it yet.

Plus some stories are written in Glaswegian dialect. Why not leave a copy of Hings on your coffee table to intrigue and perturb any non-Scottish friends or relatives? It’s the ultimate Christmas party game.

Beneath the Skin – Sandra Ireland

Beneath the Skin

Sandra is a fellow University of Dundee creative writing graduate whose writing I always thought magnificent, and it took me a shamefully long time to pick up Beneath the Skin. I went out on a mission at the Edinburgh Book Festival with my plastic glass of wine this year and picked up a copy

It checks all the important boxes. Army vet suffering from PTSD takes a job in a taxidermists. Set in Scotland. Creepy, mysterious characters. Sweet characters that warm the heart. Chilly sense of unease that never really goes away and means you have to keep reading to find out how all the loose ends tie up. Added points for stuffed birds. Everywhere.

Oh, and just in case you thought I was biased, Beneath the Skin has been shortlisted for the Saltire First Book of the Year Award. It’s marvellous. Ask for a copy for Christmas.

The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders

I knew of The Outsiders before I saw it in Barnes & Noble in Orlando. I’d seen it described as the first “real” YA book – in that it was among the first, if not THE first to deal with realistic teenagers and their peers and surroundings. S.E. Hinton was only fifteen years old when she started writing The Outsiders (and eighteen when it was published), which explains why it’s so authentic – and in the author notes of my copy she says

“At that time realistic teenage fiction didn’t exist. If you didn’t want to read Mary Jane Goes to the Prom and you were through with horse books, there was nothing to read.”

It’s gritty, unforgiving, controversial then and now because of its depictions of violence and gang culture – but I’m a firm believer in “controversial” books for young adults, because teenagers deserve not to be patronised by people telling them they’re not old enough or mature enough to deal with difficult topics in literature, and the controversial books are the ones that often deal with issues that affect young people. They deserve to be read and discussed.

I read The Outsiders in one sitting on the plane back from Orlando. I adore it.

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl

Fangirl is the first RR book I’ve read, but the first time I heard of Rainbow Rowell was a Tumblr post criticising Eleanor and Park for the way it portrayed minorities. So I picked up Fangirl based on the title – I, a fellow fangirl, can appreciate a kindred spirit when I see one – but not without a little trepidation.

I loved it.

Rowell has a really glorious prose style that’s warm and witty (as horrible and cliché as that sounds, it is!) and so evocative without ever feeling like it’s layering it on thicker than

It was sweet, it was relatable, the characters were so vibrant I felt like they were my friends after I’d finished the book. It’s up there with the best impulse book purchases I’ve ever made.

I’m not sure about E&P, but we’ll see.

*

What’ve you read recently? Let me know!

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