Montevideo Middle School English Teacher
I enjoy finding the perfect book at the perfect time for each student!
Guest Blogger: Lubna, Montevideo Middle School
I like algebra.
I just finished reading The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Again. I read it every year with my 8th graders, and it never fails to surprise me how warmly that now decades old book is received, and how fresh and current the characters feel, despite their 60’s slang and vintage hairdo’s. The rawness of teen angst, set against a backdrop of drive-in movies and street fights between the haves and have-nots still strikes a cord with my phone-wielding 13 year olds.
The book has everything a teen could want in a read: thick friendships and family bonds, romantic disputes and gang fights, car chases and death bed scenes, with a nice dash of ironic humor thrown in for good measure. The main character, Ponyboy, travels through innocence to maturity as he comes to grips with the harsh realities of social class and learns to see beyond them to universal truths about the human condition regardless of family origin, gender, or financial status. What I love about it most is how Hinton takes the victim of the novel, Johnny Cade, who has suffered chronic abuse and neglect at the hands of his parents, and transforms him into a hero. Through their suffering from forces largely beyond their control, Ponyboy and Johnny come through transformed by their experiences, able to see life in all of its fragile and golden beauty.
The book has special relevance this year as our school just completed their run of the musical, Hairspray, Jr., also set during that dissonant decade, when social norms were getting turned on their heads. The play is similar to The Outsiders in that the characters struggle against social norms to achieve personal freedom and express their talents and individuality without censor. In Hairspray, the focus is on social attitudes towards physical appearance, specifically, against people of color and a young woman whose weight places her outside of the norms of feminine beauty. Though this emphasis differs from the class wars featured by Hinton, both The Outsiders and Hairspray send a powerful message about the transcendent nature of that human spirit that defies society’s attempts to suppress the freedoms of specific people groups in our country’s recent history.
Everything is great for the gang, going to the movies, and joking around at the house. But one-night Ponyboy and Johnny were out on the street when they get jumped by Socs; what would happen that night would change the relationship between Socs and Greasers forever? I personally liked the book, it's very different from the other book's I've read. It wasn't confusing to read and it taught me things such as not to judge someone by the way they look. You have to get to know the person before judging what kind of person they are. The ending was shocking to me, I never thought of it to end like that. Also, I really like the poem in the book "Nothing gold can stay" Which says "Nature's first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf's a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf, So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down today Nothing gold can stay."