Did you read The Outsiders in eighth grade? I did and I recently read it again. It is the story of a group of wild boys from a small 1960s Oklahoma town who can't stay out of trouble.
Written by S.E. Hinton when she was only a teenager herself, and published during her freshman year at the University of Tulsa, Hinton captures what it is like to be misunderstood because you're young. Feeling that adults just don't get it and that the world is divided into in-groups and out-groups holds true no matter the setting. Hinton's group of Greasers and Socs (society kids) are relatable and translate to Jocks and Nerds or Punks and Preps or whatever labels are used to describe school cliques for the next generation. Further dividing these groups into haves and have nots provides an additional layer of relevance. Stable housing, food security, and positive parenting make a difference in preparing kids for school and meeting life's challenges. The Curtis boys in The Outsiders struggle to meet basic needs, yet their sense of family and community is strong, and the love and loyalty that surrounds them means something.
"Stay gold" were Johnny Cade's final words to Ponyboy Curtis in the novel. These words broke my heart when I first read them and it still feels the same for me years later. If you don't already know or haven't guessed, lots of bad things happen throughout the story, but Hinton makes the reader root for her characters, even when they make bad or difficult decisions that don't turn out well.
If this wasn't on your required reading list in middle school or junior high, please consider adding it to your "to be read" list, now. If you remember reading it when you were young, experiencing it again as an adult is worth your time. After reading the novel, check out Francis Ford Coppola's movie version starring young Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, and others. The exceptional casting and timeless quality bring this classic young adult book to life.