Thursday, May 27, 2010

Read the Book/See the Movie: The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton



I'd heard this book described as "groundbreaking" for the YA genre. James (from Ready When You Are, C.B.), who teaches middle school students, has claimed it as one of his favorites that he teaches the kids every year. At our most recent book fair, one of my kids' teachers grabbed it off the shelf and exclaimed "this is one of the best books I've ever read!". My sort-of-non-reading son decided he would read it for an upcoming book report, and I jumped on the bandwagon. I also knew that the movie was a treasure trove of yet undiscovered stars in 1983...Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, Tom Cruise, Diane Lane. This was a ready-made opportunity to finish off my Read the Book/See the Movie Challenge.

The story is centered on Ponyboy Curtis, a teenage boy who lives with his two older brothers (his parents were killed in a car accident) and is considered a "greaser" or a thug. His friends are greasers, and they all participate in various unlawful shenanigans...shoplifting, destruction of property, and most of all, fighting with the Soc's, a group of upper class preppies.

But Ponyboy is cut from a slightly different cloth. He is smart, he has dreams and aspirations. His schooling and long-term goals are derailed after a particularly violent confrontation with the Soc's one night, and is forced to flee with his best friend and hide from the police. A string of tragedies follows that tests Ponyboy's bonds with his brothers, damages his belief in himself, and causes him to question the rules that have governed his life. Are the Soc's really their enemies? Can he break the cycle of mediocrity in which he lives? What does all this fighting really accomplish? Is there really any good left in the world?

Initially, when this book was published in 1967, it shocked people for a couple of reasons. Did kids really live like this, fearing for their lives on a daily basis, scrapping to survive? Indeed they did, for the author, a 15-year-old female, lived the life and saw her friends experiencing the same anguish. Which was shock number two...a teenage girl wrote this? Hidden behind the genderless name S.E. Hinton, she broke not only a literary glass ceiling but unseen barriers in the YA genre that paved the way for more raw, realistic works to come.

My son and I were both moved by the emotion and depth of the writing. Hinton not only explored the unglamorous, depreciating life of a greaser, but also the relationships between siblings and friends, the definition of a hero, the love of literature, and appreciating the simpler things in life. It is truly a testament to the plot and the prose if my son, who nearly has to be forced to read, whipped through the novel in just a few days without suggestion.

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So what could be more fun that watching a movie full of successful actors when they were just fresh-faced little newbies? And a movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola?

Turns out, there probably could have been something more fun to watch, but wasn't time wasted either. The movie is rated PG, so we made it into a family movie. The script stayed true to the book for the most part, until the end, which missed most of Ponyboy's torment and soul-searching. This was disappointing - a missed opportunity for C. Thomas Howell, who played Ponyboy.

The soundtrack seemed a little strange to me, all dramatic and flowery, like it belonged in a Disney film. But the cinematography was beautiful at times. There was one scene that was reminiscent of a sweeping panorama from Gone with the Wind, which mentioned in the story multiple times. You could tell a veteran was at the helm.

Overall, however, the film did not do the book justice. This is not a huge surprise - there aren't many that do.

Book: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Movie: 3 out of 5 stars

20 comments:

Jackie (Farm Lane Books) said...

I haven't heard of this one before. I'm not sure I've ever read anything written by a girl so young, so I'd be interested to see what this was like. The fact it has stayed around so long since publication also makes it more interesting. I'm going to keep an eye out for this one.

Molly said...

I remember reading this book in 7th grade and absolutely LOVING it. I purchased it a few months ago to keep on my bookshelves, as I would like to re-read again someday to see if it has the same impact as it did all those years ago.

I did not know there was a movie made from this story. Based on your review, I think I might just stick with the book :)

Ti said...

When that movie came out, I had a HUGE and I mean HUGE crush on Ralph Macchio. We read the book in the 7th grade and I saw the movie sometime after that.

The Outsiders is the ONLY book my son says is awesome. He is a non-reader and hater of books (pains me to say it) but he loves S.E. Hinton and has read all her other books since.

Zibilee said...

I loved the movie because it was full of cute boys, and when I was a teenager, it seemed like one of the greatest movies out there. I have not read the book, so I don't have much to compare it to, but I do think I really need to. I also can't believe that Hinton wrote it when she was only 15. She must have been a very wise and experienced 15 year old! Great review, Sandy!

Jeane said...

I loved this book. I read it over and over as a teen. Tried a few other of her books, and none were quite as good as this one. I liked the movie a lot, because it stuck so close to the dialog from the book- but probably as an adult now I would find fault too.

Avid Reader said...

I read this two years ago and was really surprised by how good it was. I knew it was written by a woman, but I had no idea she was so young. That's amazing.

raych said...

I still cry every time I read this. You know, when that really sad thing happens.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Good to know about the movie!

Darlene said...

I adore this movie and have watched it so many times. Bad on me though I never realized it was based on a book or maybe I did. I don't know. I bet the book would really convey more of the emotion of what was going on.

The Bumbles said...

You're kidding! I had no idea S.E. Hinton was female - or that she was a teen when she wrote this heartbreaking story. I loved the imagery in the movie - the cinematography had that sepia tone working beautifully. Watching it again now, the acting can be a bit cheesy considering who we are watching, but it told the classic tale of tragedy very well. And any story that inspires reluctant readers to read is a good one.

Kathleen said...

I can still remember reading this book for the first time in 7th grade and cried my eyes out at the end. It has always been one of my childhood favorites. I have to say I was not crazy about the movie. The way I pictured everyone was so different than some of the actors who ended up playing the parts. It is really cool that you and your son both read it and could both enjoy it.

Alyce said...

I don't remember much about the film really. We read the book and watched the movie in my seventh grade English class. I definitely remember more from the book, so I think that speaks for itself.

Jenners said...

I remember loving this book when I read it as a young person, but I barely remember the movie. It must not have made much of an impression. And I never knew S.E. Hinton was a young woman!!!

heidenkind said...

I had no idea SE Hinton was a teenage girl. I also have to confess I haven't read this book! D:

Kathy said...

I still haven't read this book (yet), but I just recently watched the movie for the first time. It's a great story.

Alice Teh said...

I've not read this or watched it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I'm not surprised at book-to-movie adaptations either, which usually come short. Almost always the books are better with a few exceptions.

Literary Feline said...

This is one of my favorite childhood books. I loved it then and love it still. I haven't seen the movie in years but remember really enjoying it.

Trisha said...

I adored this book as a pre-teen. I re-read the book, memorized the poem, crushed on Pony Boy, and watched the movie way too many times. Great post!

Penelope said...

One of my all time fave books in 7th grade (funny how so many of us read it in 7th grade). You have reminded me of yet another book I need/want to reread. Oh but I need more time....

Valerie said...

I loved this book so much when I was young. And, being a teenager when the movie first came out, loved that too! I still have my ancient paperback copy of this book, so now I want to re-read it and share it with my older kids!