You’re my hero.
You’re the hero of every teen who strives for a sense of belonging while shining through individuality.
You’re the hero of every person who ever felt misunderstood, or underestimated, or boxed into a preconceived category just for the fuck of it.
You’re the hero of every reader who is sick and tired of one-dimensional characters, played-out tropes, and surface-level adolescent scenarios.
You, Ponyboy, are the spectacular hero of the original teenage rebel story—The Outsiders.
The story that, even 53 years (!) after it was published, is as relevant as ever for the inner and outer turmoil we all experience when coming of age. The story that, today, is honored as one of the greatest works of young adult fiction of all time.
I think you’d be proud if you knew that.
You see, Ponyboy, your story went beyond dispelling the ignorant myth surrounding the shallowness of gang culture, boldly explaining that, “If it hadn’t been for the gang, Johnny would never have known what love and affection are.“
Or unearthing the intelligence, bravery, and tenacity of the misfit, teaching us that it’s cool if “nobody in our gang digs movies and books the way I do” and that “Years of living on the East Side teaches you how to shut off your emotions. If you didn’t, you would explode“.
Or smashing the black-or-white stigma associated with befriending the social-class enemy in just three sentences:
“It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset.“
Your story made us feel heard, Ponyboy.
From the 13-year-old bookworm racing through the pages on a lazy summer day to the busy 31-year-old who needed a break from struggling to figure out this thing we call adulting.
The “poor” kid. The “rich” kid. The “smart” kid. The “quiet” kid. The “cool” kid. The “weird” kid.
The unique kid in all of us.
You taught us that it’s awesome if you “get drunk on just plain living“. It’s brave to think, “I didn’t like him, but he was smart and you had to respect him“. It’s wise to accept that your brother, or friend, or any other person “feels things differently than you do.“
You, Ponyboy, made us realize that it’s imperative to hear the “hundreds and hundreds of boys living on the wrong sides of cities“, the “hundreds of boys who maybe watched sunsets and looked at stars and ached for something better“.
That “someone should tell their side of the story“.
And just like your friend Johnny told you, evoking your admiration for Robert Frost’s poetry, you taught us to “stay gold“.
Because when you feel like you have nothing left to fight for, that gold will always shine through.
Forever your faithful reader,
Literary Love Letters is a series of unconventional book reviews in which I share my reading experience by addressing the main character of the novel directly.