Posted by: Ele Quigan | October 20, 2012

The Outsiders – S.E Hinton

So many books that are ‘compulsory high school reads’. Enough to put someone off reading for life. As I’m rarely without a book on the go (even back then, even more back then really) I was always frustrated to find that the new great book to read was one I’d already read (I’m looking at you Animal Farm, Alex and a plethora of others, tho for some reason I can’t remember the 6th form novel? I guess it had limited impact… Not to Kill a Mockingbird? I can’t not ) but as an adult, I really enjoy discovering books that people read at school, that still manage to resonate.

A good friend of mine once said how The Catcher in the Rye changed his life – surely a novel with themes around belonging and even identity was always going to hit the mark with some, particularly those who felt like they didn’t fit in, or were unsure of their sense of self.

The Outsiders I hadn’t actually ever head of, until I read an excerpt of Rob Lowe’s Autobiography in Vanity Fair a few months ago that I thought I should dig it out and read it.

Poor vs Wealth. Sticking together vs falling apart. Family as friends and friends as family. Not unfamiliar territory, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I found it pretty moving. Even though I kept waiting for the inevitable dance sequence with ‘Cool’ and clicking fingers…

So where’s its place now? The Londoner in me wants to compare it straight to knife crime, searches and the riots last year. Disaffected youth are responding in a totally different way. However there is still more than a few similarities.

College/Uni – this is becoming unaffordable for anything less than the middle classes at least here in the UK & in the US. £9k per year course costs alone? $150k for a piece of paper? I’m biased, I don’t have a degree, but I absolutely don’t believe that it should be this expensive to get an education if you wish.

Stereotyping and expectation of violence – Of course this happens. Stop/search rules here are very much based on racial profiling, and I can only think of Trayvon Martin as one of the recent examples. While not here, it’s been interesting to follow the media across that particular case.

Level of violence – I think violence has changed? It might be my very white middle class upbringing, but I feel like it’s become far more about bulling these days? Maybe that’s my more-than-slightly Guardian-warped media feed, but young gangs don’t seem to be as prevalent?

I totally wrong on that account – here’s the history of gangs in my Borough of Tower Hamlets, with a map at the bottom of where the gangs are.


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