It all started in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1967 at Will Rogers High School. A 16 year old junior named S. E. Hinton became disturbed by the clashes of the two gangs in her High School, the Greasers and the Socs.
Frustrated by the tension, Hinton went home and wrote a short story about a boy who gets beat up while walking home from the movies. This story eventually metamorphisised into an honest, sometimes shocking novel called The Outsiders.
The Outsiders as published during Hinton’s freshman year at The University of Tulsa, and was an immediate sensation. Today, with more than eight million copies in print and in six different languages, the book has become the best-selling young adult novel of all time.
The Outsiders brought with it publicity and fame. Hinton has a flood of letters from fans, but one letter from a High School student in Washington stands out the most to her:
When my teacher told my class that we were going to start reading your book, The Outsiders, I wasn’t looking forward to it because I think reading is boring. I didn’t realize the impact it was going to make on me. After we read the first chapter in class, I asked my teacher if I could take it home and continue reading it. There, I sat under my bed lamp, reading until midnight, and hung onto every word.
When we were done reading the book, I told my teacher to recommend the book to the class next to our’s. She did. Soon, that class recommended the book to the next class, then the next, then the next, etc.
The impact of The Outsiders was great, not just on me. Soon, the students in my School were much kinder to those who were different from them. “What’s up?”s were given to others by kids who would never look their way before. My friends even stopped bad mouthing their siblings. It’s amazing.
Thank you so much for writing The Outsiders. I will never forget it.
As timely now as it was when it was written nearly forty years ago, books such as The Outsiders have the power to affect reader’s lives and stay with them forever.
It really is amazing how powerful one book can be.