The Valley Ranch Library hosted a 50s-style sockhop on Friday, Aug 4, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the influential young adult novel, “The Outsiders.”
Written by 16-year-old S.E. Hinton, the book was first published on April 24, 1967. It tells the story of Ponyboy Curtis and the conflict between two gangs in the 1960s in rural Oklahoma. Ponyboy and his brothers are the Greasers, a gang of low-income working class teens. Their rivals the Socs, or Socials, are wealthy teens from the other side of town. When one of the Socs is killed by a Greaser, Ponyboy’s life is changed forever as he learns death and pain can affect anyone, no matter what their background.
“It’s a story about social classes,” Annette Burford, youth librarian at the Valley Ranch Library, said. “It’s about bringing differences together. There’s no perfect lifestyle, there’s no perfect group of people, and I think the message S.E. Hinton wanted to get across is that everybody comes from a different walk of life, but everyone is basically the same. Everybody has problems, everybody has conflicts, everybody has the same emotions. It’s important for kids to understand that no matter what walk of life they come from, nothing should hinder them from doing what they want to do, regardless of their background.”
Although the book is 50 years old, Burford believes its message is just as relevant today.
“It’s really different [today] as far as teen angst and problems people go through,” Burford said. “But it‘s all part of life, and everybody goes through it.”
The book was considered highly controversial at the time of its publication. It was ranked #38 on the “American Library Association’s Top 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-1999” for its portrayal of gang violence, underage smoking and drinking, and strong language. Despite the controversy, The Outsiders was adapted into a film in 1983 directed by Francis Ford Coppola and also had a TV series adaptation in 1990.
Mindy Ewing, a volunteer with the Valley Ranch library, saw the film when she was a teenager.
“I saw the movie for the first time in the theater when it was showing,” Ewing said. “It’s one of those things that sticks with you. All teens have conflict, no matter what clique you’re in. You’re not always a Greaser, and there’s not always knife fights, but there’s always some kind of clique conflict between teens. I thought it was encapsulating of what we were feeling without us being able to express it.”
In addition to being directed by Coppola, the film also boasted a cast of up-and-coming stars, including Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Ralph Macchio, Tom Cruise, and Diane Lane.
“Being that I saw [the movie] back then, I have grown up with all these actors,” Ewing said. “They’re very young, and it’s almost hard to realize that those people you’re seeing there are really famous actors now and that this was one of their first big breakout roles.”
The party was held as part of a tri-annual book party series held at Valley Ranch. The library held similar events this year for The Chronicles of Narnia in January and Alice in Wonderland in March.
“The parties are a great way to introduce classic books to a new audience, whether it is families who are new to the country or tweens and teens who haven’t yet encountered the book in school,” said Marianne Follis, the head librarian of Valley Ranch Library. “By creating a party, we give the books fun and memorable points of access which will hopefully stay with the attendees.”