S.E. Hinton on 'The Outsiders' 50th anniversary: 'I could never be that un-self-conscious again'
Next year, The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton’s classic novel of Greasers and Socs — which she published at the unbelievably young age of 16 — is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Fortunately, “Nothing gold can stay” doesn’t apply to great literature.
To commemorate the book and the impact it has had on so many generations of teens, Penguin Young Readers is releasing a brand-new anniversary edition of The Outsiders. It’s packed with extra content, including letters between 16-year-old Hinton and her editor, and notes from cast members from Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 film adaptation — which had a star-studded cast, including Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, and Tom Cruise.
“I knew I was going to be a writer,” Hinton says of her early start. “I began in grade school, because I loved to read, and I liked the idea of making stories happen the way I wanted them to. By the time I was in high school I had been practicing for years. So I was not surprised when I received my publishing contract for The Outsiders on the day I graduated from high school.”
The Outsiders 50th anniversary edition hits shelves Nov. 1, but in advance of its release, EW is thrilled to exclusively reveal the book’s stunningly tough new cover. Hinton herself also reflected with us on the legacy of her novel, and why it still touches teens today.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you feeling about the book’s 50th anniversary?
S.E. HINTON: I was 15 when I started writing the book, but I was even younger when I first started thinking about the story, so The Outsiders has been a significant part of the majority of my life. I’m just thrilled to be able to share such a personal milestone with the book’s fans.
Your novel also became a classic film in 1983. What’s your favorite memory from the film set? Are you still in contact with anyone from the movie?
That’s tough, I have so many incredible memories of that time, it was just magical to see everything come together. And we had had a lot of fun (probably too much) on set with the boys, many who were just getting their acting careers started. And yes, I am in contact with all of the actors and Francis Coppola. Tim Hunter, and Tim Zinnemann, the director and the producer of Tex, are still some of my best friends.
Why do you think the novel still stands up so well after all these years?
Teenagers still feel like I felt when I wrote the book, that adults have no idea what’s really going on. And even today, that concept of the “in crowd” and the “out crowd” is universal. The names of the groups may change, but kids still see their own lives in what happens to Ponyboy and his friends.
How many times have you re-read The Outsiders over the years? Are you still impressed by your teen self, or does part of you want to dive in with a red pen?
I don’t re-read it at all. I glad I wrote it when I did, I could never be that un-self-conscious again. As an adult I see many faults — but its faults are its virtues.
What would you say to your 16-year-old self now?
You’re going to be so glad you wrote that book!
What’s a favorite reader encounter that stands out for you?
I used to work in 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.”
What are you reading now?
I read mostly nonfiction these days. Some of my favorites of the last few years are Amazons, The Lost City of Z, The Search For Atlantis. I re-read Jane Austen, Mary Renault, Victorian classics. I also have a large collection of “true” paranormal books, an interest of mine.
S.E Hinton as a teen.