I recently said “Stay gold, Ponyboy” to a gentleman my age who had been an English major. He looked at me like I was crazy.
“Ponyboy. The Outsiders? S.E. Hinton?” I said.
Color me stunned. The Outsiders is the best-selling YA book of all time, and some say first, that came out when I (and he) were kids. It was required reading in High School. It was a MOVIE for goodness sake!
I sent him the link on Amazon and like a true nerd (I say with awe and wonder), he bought it. 😊
The Outsiders was also one of the most banned books in schools, right up there with Catcher in the Rye.
Susan Hinton began writing it when she was 15, completed it at 17, and was published at 19. It’s about rival gangs, includes violence, budding sexuality, and other true-to-teen life stuff. It’s very sad, very, very sad. And while I didn’t like Catcher in the Rye, it’s in that ilk and I enjoyed The Outsiders.
Her publisher recommended going with her initials so her gender wouldn’t hurt sales. She kept using H. E. with Rumblefish and That Was Then, This is Now, and her later books for adults.
It was published in 1967, written in Oklahoma and you can tell. It’s a powerful story largely because it’s written truthfully from a kid’s point of view.
I suspect it was so well received because, let’s face it, teenagers like to read about people worse off than they are.
Susan Hinton became “relevant” again recently when a Twitter comment asked if two of her characters were gay. She responded that no, they weren’t, her characters are straight because she is and can’t write truthfully from a gay perspective. The Internet blew up at her for that. She probably sold a lot of books as a result of the exposure. No publicity is bad publicity, after all.
Let me be up-front, I dislike the term “My Truth” since truth is truth and everything else is perspective, BUT, from a literary perspective, what is your truth—the thing you can write about from the inside? Hinton’s books work for teenagers because it rings true in ways other books, even better-written books, don’t.
Susan Hinton looked around herself in High School and asked what it would be like to see the world from one of the “greaser’s” eyes. Eight million copies sold later, she continues to do so. Whose eyes can you honestly look through?