By: S.E. Hinton
Original Publication: 1967
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for "social") 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. Ponyboy is a greaser, and he's always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers--until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy's skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser.
Main Character: Ponyboy Curtis - a greaser (from the wrong side of the tracks). His parents are dead so his two older brothers raise him. He's kind of the runt of the litter in the sense that he's the youngest and his older brothers and their friends are faster, stronger, and more popular than Ponyboy in school. But he's smart and his brothers keep telling him that this is what will get him out of this place. (I think it's hard for Ponyboy because this puts a lot of pressure on him to be better and to be different from the brothers he loves and admires.)
Allies and Enemies: Johnny - even though Johnny is older than Ponyboy he's kind of the sad puppy of the group. Everyone takes care of him since he's a little bit frayed around the edges, he doesn't have a good home life and he was jumped by some rich jerk kids and beaten half to death once.
Sodapop - Ponyboy's funny, cute, popular older brother. Even though he has a lot going for him, Sodapop kind of doesn't have aspirations to ever leave the neighborhood, but he thinks that Ponyboy should. Ponyboy really looks up to Sodapop and I love that their brother relationship is so tight. They comfort each other when times are tough and Sodapop really looks out for Ponyboy even though he's so cool/popular and could just ignore him.
Darry - Ponyboy's oldest brother who takes care of the family. He was a star athlete in high school and could probably have done something with that but since their parents died he stays home and takes care of the family. (He makes me sad because he had to give up so much, but he did it for his family and that's so sweet and sad at the same time).
Dallas - He's the ultimate thug, he's a greaser who's a little older and a little more jaded. He's not just a neighborhood hooligan, he could probably kill a guy if he had to, but he's also very close to the Curtis brothers and their group of friends.
Setting: A small American town in the middle of the twentieth century. A town where there are definite social classes and a wrong side of the tracks kind of situation.
“Sixteen years on the streets and you can learn a lot. But all the wrong things, not the things you want to learn. Sixteen years on the streets and you see a lot. But all the wrong sights, not the things you want to see.”
Review: This book really solidified a love of reading in me. And it was a school assigned book, so it helped me realize the school assigned books aren't all bad. It has a lot of "lesson" type stuff (social class, being true to yourself, not letting the world get you down, rising above your situation). However, it didn't feel like that on a first read-through. It was just a great story about a group of boys who are trying to get by. It has a definite YA feeling (even though it was published before the phrase YA existed). It's because it's about boys who are thrust into a world on their own and have to deal with all the bad stuff that comes with it.
“It seemed funny that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset.”
It also has an awesome ensemble cast (the movie had a decent one to mirror this: Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane). I love ensemble casts that really mesh well (see every Joss Whedon show). And it had bromance! Which I love and which really showed that these boys were just boys deep down, despite all the violence and drinking and b.s. that they had to deal with.
Be careful, this book is a tear jerker, I actually cried when reading it in class, so beware of the sad scenes because there are a good number of them.
And finally, I have to talk about the fact that S.E. Hinton was sixteen when she wrote it! WTF? Talk about YAs writing YA. You go girl.