Back before YA was even a recognizable genre of literature, teenager S.E. (Susan Eloise) Hinton rocked the publishing world with her debut, The Outsiders, in 1967. Told from the perspective of an actual young person (Hinton received her publishing contract upon graduating from high school), the book offered an unflinching look at the tough lives of a street gang called the Greasers, who created a makeshift family for themselves as they fought the Socs and tried to envision a better life off of the streets.
The book became required reading in some schools, banned in others, and was immortalized in a 1983 film version, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring young actors Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, and Diane Lane. Hinton followed up The Outsiders with also successful YA-before-there-was-YA books like Rumble Fish, Tex, and That Was Then, This Is Now (which all were also made into movies). The Outsiders, however, still stands as her most well-known novel.
In anticipation of the publication of the book’s 50th-anniversary edition in November, Hinton spoke with Entertainment Weekly and reflected on The Outsiders’ remarkable history. (The anniversary edition from Penguin Young Readers will include a new cover, letters between the teen author and her editor, and notes from the movie’s cast members.) Hinton reports that a lot of fun was had on the film set, with a bunch of actors on the brink of breakout careers. She attributes the book’s enduring appeal to the fact that “teenagers still feel like I felt when I wrote the book, that adults have no idea what’s really going on.” She also describes her favorite reader encounter when she was working at a shoe store: “While fitting work boots on some tough young guys, someone told them who I was. One of them said ‘You made me cry on the school bus.’” It’s ironic that The Outsiders’ long-term success discredits the book’s most famous line (from the Robert Frost poem): “Nothing gold can stay.”
Read the whole interview at Entertainment Weekly.