Critical Review by Times Literary Supplement
SOURCE: "On the Hook," in The Times Literary Supplement, October 30, 1970, p. 1258.
In the following excerpt, the reviewer asserts that while adult readers may find the plot of The Outsiders heavy-handed and tedious, younger readers will be so enthralled by the character Ponyboy, who the reviewer identified as believable, that they will disregard what the reviewer assesses as the narrative's weaknesses.
The author and chief character are … identified with each other in The Outsiders, a novel already acclaimed in America as the expression of how teenagers feel. Its author is seventeen and capable of interesting a wider audience than the group she writes about. She reports on the class, social and physical warfare of two city gangs, the Greasers and the Socs, from the slums and the upper-middle class areas. Both lots suffer from parental absence or neglect and seek to realize themselves in feats of strength which lead to disaster and death. The violence is unrepressed, but less significant than Ponyboy's struggle to express the nature of gang loyalty and family affection in a world which is hostile to Greasers, who have even less chance than Socs to sort out desirable goals and less hope of ever attaining them. Ponyboy is a credible character, but the plot creaks and the ending is wholly factitious. The author's determination to "tell it like it is" means that the language, wholly group-coded, is both arresting and tiring to read in its repetitiousness.
The trusted adult (who, it seems, is envisaged as the ideal reader) may find the unrelieved seriousness, a kind of literary egocentrism, too monotonous. Young readers will waive literary discriminations about a book of this kind and adopt Ponyboy as a kind of folk hero for both his exploits and his dialogue.