It's Throwback Thursday! Every other Thursday (possibly every Thursday if we can), we'll showcase a book from our past that we loved and still do. Got a book from your past you want to talk about? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about it!
In honor of my first Throwback Thursday post, I'm going to flail about my favorite book (possibly of all time): The Outsiders.
Ponyboy Curtis is a sensitive, daydreaming Greaser--a poor kid living in 1960s Oklahoma. He lives with his brothers Darryl and Sodapop and their found-family-slash-gang of miscreant friends: Two-Bit (the funny one), Steve (the mean one), Dallas (the bitter anti-hero) and Johnny, Ponyboy's best friend. Their rivals are the Socs, or the rich elite. Though the Socs are often content with jumping lone Greaser boys for fun, what happens when things go too far, and Ponyboy and Johnny are caught in the middle?
I tried to start this review six different times and always came up short, because I truly don't know how to describe it. If you've been reading for a while you know that sometimes, it's really hard to go back to your favorites. They don't read the same, and they don't feel the same. You outgrow them.
I will never outgrow The Outsiders.
The language in the book is weirdly beautiful. It's written in first person, and manages to utilize Ponyboy's folksy language and slang (the explanation of the difference between "tough" and "tuff" is delightful) in order to convey complex ideas about society and the people in it. The author (a 16 year old girl, by the way) strikes the perfect balance between people and plot. None of it feels far-fetched or arbitrary, and the reactions of the characters feel natural and understandable.
The characters are truly the driving force of the entire story. They're all so wonderfully dynamic. Johnny is precious and terrified and the embodiment of a kicked puppy. I want to hug him eternally. Two-Bit gives great comic relief while still being multifaceted and just as tragic as the rest of them. Steve manages to mean-mug the reader without even having much dialogue, and still somehow owns my soul by the end. I love the three Curtis brothers with all my heart, and if you're a teenage girl and insist you're not a little bit in love with Dallas Winston, you are probably lying. I even found myself intrigued by the Socs and their respective troubles--because, as Cherry Valance says, "Things are rough all over."
That said, this is one of the few books where the main character is my favorite. Ponyboy is such a great character, you guys. He loves poetry and rock and roll and doesn’t see the point in violence that’s not in defense. He's a marshmallow, but he's not weak. He's incredibly thoughtful and tries to see things from everyone's point of view, but he also has no problem putting his fists up to defend himself and his family.
One of the most fascinating parts of the story is the way Ponyboy grows to accept new truths of the world while still remaining a decent person. Despite the fact that he has been through some spectacularly terrible things and come out the other side a little worse for wear, he still manages to retain his sense of self. There's a moment near the end of the book that is both definitive and hilarious for Ponyboy's character. A small group of Socs approaches Ponyboy, Steve, and Two-Bit, looking for a fight to avenge their friend. Ponyboy, in a sort of PTSD-induced fugue state, breaks his glass bottle and threatens to slice them open if they don't leave them be. The Socs take off, and Two-Bit confronts Ponyboy about his new willingness to resort to violence. This exchange then occurs:
"Ponyboy, listen, don't get tough. You're not like the rest of us and don't try to be..."
What was the matter with Two-Bit? I knew as well as he did that if you got tough you didn't get hurt. Get smart and nothing can touch you...
"What in the world are you doing?" Two-Bit's voice broke into my thoughts.
I looked up at him. "Picking up the glass."
He stared at me for a second, then grinned. "You little sonofagun," he said in a relieved voice. I didn't know what he was talking about, so I just went on picking up the glass from the bottle end and put it in the trash can. I didn't want anyone to get a flat tire.
Basically, I love him. I love everyone in this soda-drinking, Elvis-worshipping diner and I have for fifteen years.
Maybe you will, too.
Want to check out The Outsiders and fall in love with Ponyboy too? Find The Outsiders in the CMRLS system!