Entry #5 – Sharing is caring: “Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” Share a book that EVERYBODY NEEDS TO READ.
Books that have left me with a “weird evangelical zeal” are not necessarily books that I think everyone would enjoy. They were important to me, but were perhaps too girly, too historical, or too fantasy-based for other readers.
However, I did come up with a book that I think everyone should read. That book would be The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Hinton was only 18 when her book was published in 1967. I love hearing about authors who found success at a young age. The Outsiders is narrated by Ponyboy Curtis, a 14-year-old living with his older brothers Sodapop and Darry. He tells us about his life as a Greaser on the tough side of town. Even though he gets good grades at school and is athletic, he doesn’t fit in with the rich kids, the Socs. The novel is a coming-of-age story. Ponyboy learns that “things are rough all over”—no matter what side of town you live on. He learns that his brother is tough on him because Darry doesn’t want to see Ponyboy’s potential wasted. Ponyboy encounters adventure, as well as loss, and learns the value of family and friendship.
As an English teacher, this was always one of the best books to teach. Kids legitimately enjoy this story. They want to know what happens to the characters: Ponyboy, Soda, Darry, Johnny, Dally, Two-Bit, Steve, and Cherry become important to them. This is the only time when kids read MORE than what they were assigned. In fact, some students finish the book only a day or two after handing the books out. Teenagers can relate to this book, and the writing is easy to read and understand. It’s Young Adult literature at its best.
This was also a great book to use because the film version is wonderful too. So many students loved the book that they begged for a film adaptation. Francis Ford Coppola directed a version in 1983. The film stars C. Thomas Howell as Ponyboy, Rob Lowe as Soda, Patrick Swayze as Darry, Ralph Macchio as Johnny, Matt Dillon as Dally, Emilio Estevez as Two-Bit, Tom Cruise as Steve, and Diane Lane as Cherry. Everyone in the cast went on to have lucrative TV and film careers. It’s fun to see them all so young. My students always swooned over Rob Lowe, though I preferred Matt Dillon!
Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.