by S.E. Hinton
I was thrilled to see this on my library’s list of new audiobooks, and I borrowed it immediately. I waited almost a whole day before I listened to it, wondering if I still knew most of it by heart. Yup.
The narrator is a little twangy, but that’s perfectly accurate to the locale of the book. Which I always conveniently ignored, mentally moving the setting to my own town, my own flat Midwestern singsong accent.
The thing that I am finding entirely fascinating about this book is how I move through time with it, how it changes for me. When I first read it, everyone was so much older than I was, so grown up. Then the characters were my age, more or less, and I knew them. They were just like my friends. Hell, they WERE my friends. That feeling stayed pretty consistent for many years. The last time I read it, my own son was roughly Ponyboy’s age, and there were parts that I felt uncomfortable with. I had some judgmental feelings about the kids smoking, for instance. And though I recognized how ridiculous those feelings actually were, I had them just the same. This time, my son’s as old as Darry, and I’m older by far than Two-Bit’s mother. This time, everyone in the book was so young, and I was maybe even more intimately involved with them than I’ve ever been.
This is among my favorites. Johnny Cade’s scared eyes have haunted me for 30-plus years, and I’m pretty sure this is where I learned the use of appending cakes to a name as a term of endearment, a shortcut I still use today. We won’t even mention Dally. Or the streetlight. Or how much I love him.
This time, I felt Darry’s part so keenly, and I watched the book unfold from his point of view. I spent some mental time with the parents in the courthouse.
I don’t love the book any less. In fact, I don’t think I could love it more. Though that’s just what I said last time, and I reproduce my 2007 review below.
I read this book so many times that I wore out multiple copies. I did book reports on it in 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. I like to think I didn’t use the same one over and over again (but I probably did). I recently revisited this one, and found it complicated by the fact that I have an adolescent son. I kept switching viewpoints in my head and finding myself unwilling to believe that my son could be in the same places as Ponyboy.
It’s sorting itself out for me, in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I find that re-reading it has ultimately helped me to grasp the fact that Owen is a person in his own right, who has lots of decisions to make all by himself. With no input from me, thanks. And it’s easier to think of him that way now.
Which is to say that 30 years later, this book is not finished with me. Oh, and I no longer want to date Dallas Winston. Much.