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Book Review: The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

Abigail Benjamin

"The Outsiders" is a coming of age novel from 1967 that impacted my prayer life in a beautiful way this summer. It's amazing for me to hold a novel that author S. E. Hinton wrote as a 15 year old in High School.  The plot is similar to West Side Story. The "Greasers" are the poor kids in Oklahoma who face gang-like conflict with the "Socials", troubled rich kids who drive around in their flashy cars and beat up the weak.

"The Outsiders" is a book about class. It's a book about the Artist try to find his own identity. What surprised me the most was that this book about troubled kids was also extremely pro-family. The main character, Pony, is the youngest of a family of three brothers. Their parents have died. The brothers are holding onto the gift of family life even in the middle of harsh circumstances. They extend their hospitality to a group of male teenagers that don't have a safe space at home. It amazed me that in the middle of a book about knife fights, the author is talking about the importance of "cleaning the house" and of leaving the door open at night so other teenagers have the option of a safe place to go whenever their abusive parents start to drink and fight. "The Outsiders" isn't a book about family life. Yet it echoed to me the importance that one loving couple can make on a whole town, even if they are no longer around and their kids aren't calmly dealing with emotional pain by going to Mass every Sunday.

There is a central moment in the novel where a character tells his friend to "Stay Gold" and watch the sunset everynight. I don't want to ruin your delight in a new story, so forgive me for being vague about the context of this quote. My takeaway message from this author was to appreciate God's Beauty more in my life.

For about 2 months, I've remembered to watch every sunrise that I can see and every sunset. I pray almost every morning because I'm a Caremelite.  Yet its really amazing to pray outside while I watch the sunrise. I don't have a gorgeous view from my backyard. I've got of bunch of messy telephone wires blocking my view to the East. After reading this book, I'm more affectionate about my "messy, poor view" that's more similar to the book's main character than some glossy Southern Living photo shoot. My imperfect view of the sunrise doesn't matter, because God's color choices are amazing. There is something so peaceful and uplifting about trying to catch every sunrise and sunset that I can in my life. God's free art show is the perfect set of bookends to my daily life.

I'm so grateful to S. E. Hinton for taking a risk and publishing her first novel at age 15. She reminds me that you don't have to have the spit and polish of Shakespeare to have a message that is worthwhile to share with the world. This would be a great choice for a book on tape on your iPod for your daily commute to the City. If movies are your thing, a 1983 Outsiders movie is free on You Tube.  The best part of that movie is watching young Tom Cruise preform in his first acting job, along with Patrick Swayze and Ralph Macchio.  Enjoy "The Outsiders" and our last few weeks of sunsets in the summer!