The Outsiders by S.E Hinton (published in 1967)
Not all writers were bookworms as children!
Author Maisie Chan discusses her first big literary inspiration. 

MC: I didn’t read that much as a teenager. I was more preoccupied with how I was going to make one or two members of New Kids on the Block fall madly in love with me. When I did read, it was often Agatha Christie whodunits or epic adult romances or black American books like the Autobiography of Malcolm X or The Color Purple. It was the early nineties and I wanted to be American. TV and film has a lot to answer for!

An early cover of The Outsiders
There was one book I remember reading as a teen and it had a profound effect on me. That book was The Outsiders, by S.E Hinton

I didn’t know Hinton was a woman until recently. I had assumed it was written by a man because the voices of the male characters and the lives that they lived felt visceral and authentic. I grew up in a council house with my adopted parents and other foster kids. My two older brothers were somewhat like the rough greasers featured in the book. They got into trouble for stealing cars, and I know one of my older brothers carried a knife and other weapons. So the themes and narratives of the book weren’t that far from my own life
  the theme  of not fitting in  is prevalent and one that is written again and again in YA books. 

The first edition of The Outsiders, 1967
The book could be set today in any inner-city neighbourhood where young men of all races fight it out over the smallest comments, where carrying a knife or a machete is the norm. When society sees you as the lowest of the low, you often can’t rise above it; only Pony Boy, the narrator, does, but his choices are hard. Does he stay loyal to his friends even though they are self-destructive  or does he move on?

I loved the book for so many reasons. It’s a treatise on working-class culture, masculinity and, I suppose, the American Dream  where some will never ‘make it’ because everything is stacked against them.

Editor's note: The Outsiders has never been out of print since it was first published. 


Maisie Chan is a Birmingham-born writer who lives in Glasgow. She writes for children, teens, and occasionally adults too. 

Maisie's website: Maisie Chan Writes

Follow Maisie on Twitter: @MaisieWrites

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