When a guy has a particularly gruff exterior, it’s easy to write them off as emotionless. But, just because someone appears to be tough and gritty and harsh doesn’t mean that they don’t have vulnerabilities. My two book recommendations this week are about young men that are more than they appear to be (as many of us are).
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Sometimes understanding historical context adds much to the factor of awesome for a book. For example, S.E. Hinton was only a teenager when she wrote and published The Outsiders, a book that publishers didn’t believe would sell if people knew it was authored by a teenage girl. S.E. Hinton, however, writes frankly about gangs, drinking, poverty, and class conflicts.. Nowadays, The Outsiders isn’t considered quite as outrageous and shocking as it must have been for young adult literature in the late 60’s. But this is because Hinton’s work is considered by many to have ignited a change towards more realistic writing for young adults. Without her taking the plunge, awesomely gritty works by authors like Ellen Hopkins may never have come to fruition.
For the unfamiliar, The Outsiders is about two warring gangs in Oklahoma. Told from the perspective of a 14-year-old boy, Ponyboy, you get a glimpse inside the world of the Greasers, cursed with feeling too much, that are fighting against the Socs, who are cursed with feeling too little. What I appreciate about this book is that the characters aren’t ridiculous hooligans that you can’t relate to. Ponyboy (yeah, I know his name is weird, but he knows, too) and his band of brothers read like real people that you want to root for, even when you know they aren’t exactly in the right. You sympathize for the boys’ situation and the feeling of helplessness in the face of senseless violence. And, you identify with their wish for a better life and a way out.
You’ll like this if: you’re a fan of Catcher in the Rye, you can handle a little teen angst and bitterness, and you want a short read that packs a punch.
Quote: “But I was still lying and I knew it. I lie to myself all the time. But I never believe me.”
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelson
Cole is angry. Really, Really angry. But when you become privy to his background, it would be a miracle for him to be a total optimist. After a series of incidents involving lying, stealing and violence that culminate in an act of excessive violence against another student, Cole is faced with jail time. Seeking an alternative to a jail cell, Cole is given an opportunity to engage in a Native American method of justice called” Circle Justice.” Now stuck on a remote island with only the animals and his personal demons, Cole must learn to take responsibility and stop hating the world and himself.
Cole’s adventure of self-discovery is reminiscent of all-alone-in-the-wilderness-books along the lines of Jack London and kid-in-a-bad-situation-books like, well, The Outsiders. I really love fly-on-the-wall views into situations that I have never experienced. And, this novel gave me, what I feel is, a great look into the perspective of a boy from a very rough background facing the struggle against change.
Cool Side Note: the author is a totally rad dude that has a pet bear! (Yeah, a bear).
You’ll like this if: you’re already a fan of The Outsiders, you enjoyed Into the Wild, and/or you want a modern day sort of Jack London.
Quote: “A person is never done being mad. Anger is a memory never forgotten. You only tame it.”