I was in 7th grade when I read The Outsiders for the first time. I had to read it for a class otherwise I probably wouldn’t have picked it up, and I would have missed out on something special. It’s a realistic, and therefore not always pretty, look at life for “greasers” from the wrong side of the tracks. The desire to ban this book is usually because of that authenticity, with reasons such as drug and alcohol use and “virtually all the characters were from broken homes” cited. [See Novelist]
The great books usually have someone or some theme that the reader can identify with in the story. I wasn’t from a broken home nor did I wear grease in my hair, but I could relate to some of what the characters were going through. And what about the kids who do identify completely with it’s harsh reality? Is banning their stories the right message to send? As author Chris Crutcher said, “When we censor these stories, we censor the kids themselves.” (Read more in his excellent letter on this topic.)
But where books can really make a difference is in shedding light on something you had little or no idea about before. After reading this book, I understood more of what it was like to be an “outsider” and have a family so much different than my own. S.E. Hinton’s book gave me a more nuanced and balanced understanding of the world, and to many other teenagers before and after me.