October of 1982 a 7th grade girl is in the jr. high library looking for her next book to do a report. I was a voracious reader and I wanted a book that no one else had written a report on or maybe even knew about.
I was digging through a stack of books and came across one with the title The Outsiders. I read the back information page and then I read the first page. Well I saw the words, movies, Paul Newman and I was hooked. I was not only a fan of Paul Newman but movies as well. I was so excited. I checked the book out and sat down at a table to read it until class was over.
It was Friday so that meant I could read it over the weekend. My home life was not the best and usually chaotic. I would hang out with my brothers, eat dinner in silence and then we would either watch a movie or be sent to our rooms. I cleaned up after dinner and the three of us went to my bedroom, watched a little tv, then they were sent off.
I wasn’t supposed to stay up later than 10 but I would get a flashlight and hide under my blanket to read. I didn’t have much time at school to read more than the first five pages so I was so happy to finally be left alone with my book. I knew right away this book was going to be in my heart forever.
The biggest reason the book struck a chord with me is because I was such a lonely teenager. I didn’t fit in with anyone. I couldn’t really connect with anyone at school because I was in a different place emotionally and physically. While the few friends I had were boy crazy and talking about boy stuff I just couldn’t join in. I have never been a flirt or chatty unless it was about books etc. I had a very strict home life so half of the things they were discussing I had no idea about. My weekends were the skating rink, black and white movies and reading. When I would go see my dad I had some exposure to the outside world. I discovered MTV which I watched continuously while visiting. I had a cousin who was a social butterfly so I learned some things from her. I still didn’t fit in anywhere. I was always outside looking in and observing. Ive always had the constant dialogue in my head and day dreaming. I wanted a gang like the one Ponyboy had especially the way they all stuck together. I was like Ponyboy, very sensitive and always thinking beyond the present. I longed for a place to belong and a group that would welcome just as I am. That book was my refuge. I could get lost and imagine that I was the female Ponyboy and what life would be like.
One day I was at the mall in Waldensbook store and there on the cover of the latest teen magazine was the title: Matt Dillon to star in S.E. Hintons book The Outsiders. I couldn’t believe it. I grabbed the magazine and read the whole thing. I was a big fan of Matt’s and read that he was a fan of the author. He had already been in the film Tex which I found out was another one of her books. I read the rest of the cast most of whom I was familiar with from other works. I was so jealous that I was not going to be in the movie. I couldn’t wait for the movie to come out. I read every teen magazine every weekend to get updates and release dates of the movie. I had no friends that were that interested so I had no one to share my excitement.
I was rarely allowed out to the movies but I kept watch anyway. I found out that I had missed in both my home towns. I was very sad and angry. That summer we went on a vacation to San Antonio. We were walking through the mall and saw the movie theater. I saw in big letters The Outsiders. I held back the tears as I timidly asked if my brother and I could go see it. My parents actually said yes and I grabbed my brothers hand and we ran to the ticket booth. I couldn’t believe it! The movie had already started but I didn’t care. My brother didn’t know anything about the book at that time he just did whatever I wanted. He liked the movie so much I let him borrow my book. I ended up getting a copy with the actors from the movie on it and kept it for more than 30 years. I lost it recently during a low time in my life and I miss it.
What brought up all of this nostalgia? This year is the 50th anniversary of the book. S.E. Hinton was my inspiration to be a writer. I won awards for my writing and encouraged by teachers but never knew what to do next. She and all her books have been a part of my life since 1982.
I was going to attend the anniversary celebration and opening of the museum in Tulsa. Family issues prevented me from attending and I was crushed. I know there are many fans and everyone has a special story. I have a heart link to this book. I am still an outsider searching for a gang. I still hold out that I will get to meet her and visit the museum. I would love to sit and have a talk with her and be 13 for a few hours again.
Thank you for reading!
Peace and Love,