After my son got home from school the other day I asked him some of the customary questions. What did you do at school today? What did you learn in Science, Social Studies, Math? What are you reading in English?
He let me know that he is currently reading The Outsiders, that standard middle school novel that all of my high school students still remember and love. For some of my students, it's the last book they've read. It occurred to me my knowledge of the book was nil.
Shame on me!
I know it is a classic, yet I vaguely remember the movie and don't remember reading the book at all. So I took a few hours and gave it a read. Loved it! On to my three points.
1. S.E. Hinton was (and probably still is) incredibly wise. The entire time I read the book I thought about how this was written begun by a fifteen year old and finished by a sixteen year old. Hinton remarked in an interview that she feels Ponyboy was closest to her as a person. That makes sense to me, as it was her first novel, she was young, and I think often young people are drawn to first person. In light of this I have to give her props for being so mature, understanding, and just plain wise about people and the world.
2. The first chapter. I had a hard time with the way the descriptions were put in. I mean, they were basically arranged by paragraphs and to be honest it made it really hard for me to feel the difference. I guess I got caught up in trying to memorize all the facts about the kids before the action really started to happen. It was disconcerting to me, but perhaps helpful for kids who want that information laid out for them.
3. Lack of parents. I read somewhere, I believe on another blog, that in young adult fiction the parents are frequently absent or neglectful. This novel clearly falls into that category, and it forced me to think about that issue again. Is it really necessary for kids to not have traditional parents in order to delve into issues of coming to terms with themselves and their world? I don't think so, but it is certainly prevalent in YA, and this is sort of like the bible of YA, adored by kids and teachers alike. Something to think about.
Well, I'm glad I read it. If I've read it before and don't remember, I'm glad I read it again. Up next? Lady Macbeth's Daughter by Lisa Klein.