Wow, this was an incredibly powerful book. And it was made more powerful (for me) by the knowledge that the author was only 16 when she penned it.
The story of Ponyboy, his brothers, and their gang of greaser friends was profoundly emotional. The violence between opposing gangs, and the lack of adult knowledge or interference, seemed so sad and pointless, but adolescent rage with no direction or purpose has to exert itself in some way. These boys just wanted to survive, and to possibly find happiness in the process, but life is so very against them.
All of the greasers, even those who weren’t present quite as often, were very well developed. Each of them were unique individuals, despite being members of a gang that sprang from the pen of a teenager. However, my two favorites were Ponyboy, our main character, and Johnny. These two were a little more obviously sensitive than the rest of their group, and the other boys fought desperately to preserve this innocence that they themselves had already lost. This protectiveness was sweet and heartbreaking and seemingly futile in the face of poverty and gang wars and other symptoms of having to living in such a broken world.
But even in the midst of such tragedy, there is always hope. Sunsets and chocolate cake for breakfast and brothers who would give you the shirt off their backs if it would make you smile all proclaim this hope. Good friends and track meets and laughter and Gone with the Wind all make life worth living, even when it hurts.
This is another book that I wish I had found when I was a teenager, but better late than never, right? Hinton wrote the story she needed, one of teens portrayed as they really are, in all their angry, laughing glory. This was a tale of hardship and how unfair life can be and the resilience of adolescents. It was sad and moving and life-affirming. If you haven’t read it, please do so. And if you know a teen that is raging against the hand they’ve been dealt, try to get a copy of this into their hands.
A buddy read with the lovely Mary!