Title: The Outsiders
Author: S.E. Hinton
Speak Platinum Edition, 1967 (revised 1995)
Recommended to: Teens of both genders, 13 and older
Ponyboy Curtis has had a pretty hard life for someone who's just 14 years old. His parents passed away when he was just a kid, and he lives with his two brothers, the handsome high-school dropout, Sodapop, and tough, angry Darrel who's constantly trying to protect him. Even though he no longer has parents, Ponyboy has friends and brothers that he can count on. His gang will always be there for him, no matter what happens. Together, with their other friends Dallas, Two-Bit, Johnny, and Steve, the boys are unstoppable and nothing can get in their way, not even the vicious upper-class Socs who'd like nothing more then to see "greasers" (kids of a poorer, working-class) like Ponyboy's gang get beat up or even killed. But then the boys' friendship is put to the ultimate test when one of them gets fatally injured, and they'll have to realize that they'll always be together in soul....even if they are apart.
I found The Outsiders to be a frank, realistic, and truly terrific novel. It amazes me how S.E. Hinton was only 15 years old-only a year or so older than her protagonist-when she wrote her first novel, yet she has such an adult-like perspective of the world: sincere and truthfully told, not leaving any of the dangerous, difficult, and violent aspects out. This novel really made me open my eyes and see that not all of the world is a happy place, and lots of kids really do have a rough time. This is a story of friendship, brotherhood, love, and belonging that I think people of all ages, genders, and races can relate to, a true classic.
There's about a zillion copies from lots of different publishers of The Outsiders that you can pick up, but I chose the Penguin Speak Platinum edition (picture above). At the back of the book is an interview with the author and a book-club-directed discussion guide with questions that I definitely think will help you understand the novel more after you're done.