SE Hinton’s debut 1967 novel has been enthralling readers since it’s publication over fifty years ago, leaving many fans searching for more books like The Outsiders.
Written by Hinton when she was only 16 years old, The Outsiders continues to be a favourite for fans of the young adult genre, though it is also famous for the 1983 Francis Ford Coppola film adaptation.
If you enjoyed SE Hinton’s iconic novel and are keen to find more titles, check out these great novels that are sure to spark the same emotions and cover similar themes.
12 Books Similar to The Outsiders
That Was Then, This Is Now, by SE Hinton
SE Hinton’s second novel, published in 1971, That Was Then, This Is Now is an obvious choice for those looking for their next read after The Outsiders.
Much like Hinton’s first novel, this book is a coming-of-age story that follows two teenage boys, Mark and Bryon, living together in Tulsa, Oklahoma after the death of Mark’s parents.
Because they are living on their own, the book explores the dynamic of Mark and Bryon’s relationship as they are forced to fend for themselves as teenagers without adult supervision.
The novel follows similar themes to The Outsiders and even includes a cameo by Ponyboy Curtis, the protagonist of Hinton’s first novel.
Including the same kind of honest teen struggles and examining the social hierarchies in teen life, That Was Then, This Is Now is the perfect choice if you’re looking for your next read.
Rumble Fish, by SE Hinton
Another of the most obvious choices if you’re looking for a book similar to The Outsiders is SE Hinton’s 1975 novel Rumble Fish.
The novel follows Rusty-James as he recounts the story of his early teenage years to an old friend. Much like in Hinton’s other novels, the young Rusty-James lives with his older brother in a very low-income, rough area and his parents are not in the picture.
It explores such dynamics like gang life and social standings along with bringing to attention some more difficult teen issues in ways that novels of the time rarely did.
Rumble Fish was also turned into a feature film by Francis Ford Coppola in 1983, however, unlike Hinton’s previous novels, there is no crossover of characters. Despite this, the book certainly follows a similar storyline and themes and is a really good choice to add to your read list!
The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger
Arguably the most notable book with a teenage protagonist ever to have been published, no list would be complete without including JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.
The novel follows Holden Caulfield, a 17-year-old boy who has just been expelled from an elite boarding school as he spends a few days on his own in New York City before heading home to face his parents.
A quintessential coming-of-age novel, Holden is often considered to be one of the most unsympathetic protagonists in literary history, however, many readers to this day are taken in by his story.
His constant pursuit of seeking a human connection and trying to see people for who they really are are things that many people can relate to and it also brings to attention how isolating it can be to be a teenager.
Though it has been incredibly popular since its publication, it is also considered to be one of the most censored and challenged books of all time, known for its strong language and sexual themes.
Despite its controversy, The Catcher in the Rye has influenced many writers in the Young Adult genre, and it is the perfect choice if you’re looking for a book with similar themes to The Outsiders.
For more book recommendations, browse our books like The Catcher in the Rye article!
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Another one of the greatest young adult novels of all time and one that doesn’t sugarcoat the struggles facing teenagers in high school is Stephen Chbosky’s 1999 book The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
This epistolary novel follows Charlie as he begins his first year of high school immediately following the suicide of his best friend. Losing his most trusted companion, Charlie is introverted and isolated but begins to open up as he makes friends and connections with a group of students.
This novel follows teenagers in an honest and straightforward way and really draws to attention some of the struggles that young people can face.
Covering themes like sexual assault, drug use, homosexuality, and mental illness, The Perks of Being a Wallflower has certainly been met with its fair share of controversy, much like SE Hinton’s debut novel.
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
John Green’s first novel Looking for Alaska is another great choice for those looking for books akin to The Outsiders especially if you liked the honest telling of teenage life in Hinton’s novel and the social hierarchies explored there.
This 2004 book follows Miles “Pudge” Halter as he transfers from a normal public high school to a small boarding school in Alabama. While at school, he forms relationships with a group of smart, troublemaking misfits while he fosters a formidable crush on the spirited and troubled Alaska Young.
Along with examining theme like teenage drinking, depression, dealing with grief and loss, the novel also explores the dynamics of a wealth divide and the certain privileges that those with money are awarded compared to those who don’t come from means.
Subject to lots of criticism and controversy, Looking for Alaska is currently being developed into a miniseries for the online platform Hulu, due to be released later in 2019. It is also just a fantastic book to read if you’re on the hunt for more novels to read.
Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell
Rainbow Rowell’s 2013 novel Eleanor and Park is a fantastic choice for readers who enjoyed The Outsiders.
Set in the 1980s, this critically-acclaimed book follows teenage high school students Park Sheridan and Eleanor Douglass.
Park is a mildly popular 16-year-old from a middle-class family who forms a friendship and romantic relationship with Eleanor. Eleanor is overweight and comes from extreme poverty, is frequently horribly bullied in school, and lives with her mother, siblings, and abusive stepfather.
The book deals with such issues as bullying, domestic abuse, and body image issues and will certainly tug on your heartstrings while making you deeply care for the characters.
It also explores similar economic themes including examining the privileges and security that wealth can provide.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has garnered a mountain of both critical acclaim and controversy since its publication in 2007. Dealing with themes like poverty, bullying, and coming of age, it is a great option for your next read.
Set in the state of Washington, the novel follows 14-year-old Junior, a boy of Native American descent living in an Indian reservation.
Because of his academic achievement and precocity, Junior gets the opportunity to attend a school in a much wealthier and better-funded district than he would ordinarily be permitted where he is the only student of Native American ancestry.
Junior is forced to learn and adapt to a much different lifestyle than he is used to and he is constantly confronted with the wealth disparity that plagues that the United States. Much like in The Outsiders, this novel examines socioeconomic privilege and hardship extremely well.
Again, though it has been met with significant controversy due to some of its content, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a fantastic addition to any young person’s reading list.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time may not be the first title that comes to mind when searching for more books like The Outsiders, however, it is an excellent read and it is sure to satisfy readers who also enjoyed the SE Hinton novel.
The novel is told from the perspective of 15-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone, a young man living in a London suburb who is on the Autism Spectrum. It centres around Christopher’s discovery of his neighbour’s dog having been killed on a garden fork and his obsessive investigation into the dog’s death.
While his investigation is the main plotline in the book, it also explores with great detail and empathy exactly what it is like to live with a social disability and how people with Autism Spectrum Disorder both think and are treated.
While it doesn’t explore the socioeconomic themes that The Outsiders does, it still examines the social structure of our society and how it treats those with disabilities.
Go Ask Alice, by Beatrice Sparks
Go Ask Alice is presented as the diary of an anonymous teenage girl who gets ensnared in the world of drugs. In fact it was originally published with an anonymous author.
This raw and visceral account provides a poignant and sometimes disturbing view of the pressures and pitfalls of adolescence.
Like in The Outsiders, it’s a coming-of-age tale that underscores the dangers and tragedies that can come from circumstances and choices.
Both books centre on young protagonists struggling to navigate a world they don’t entirely understand, grappling with societal expectations, peer pressure, and their own evolving identities.
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
This classic novel is about a group of British boys stranded on an uninhabited island and their disastrous attempts to govern themselves. It’s a grim and provocative exploration of human nature and the thin veneer of civilization.
While The Outsiders and Lord of the Flies are set in completely different environments, both books delve into the inherent violence and chaos that can emerge when societal order breaks down.
Have you already read this novel? Check out our list of similar books to Lord of the Flies!
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Speak tells the story of Melinda, a high school freshman who becomes a social pariah after she calls the police to end a summer party.
As the novel unfolds, it becomes clear that Melinda has experienced a traumatic event, and her silence is her way of coping.
Speak delves into themes of isolation, identity, and the struggle to find one’s place in a hostile environment. Both books capture the inner turmoil of teenagers who are dealing with traumatic incidents and peer pressures, struggling to express their feelings in a world that often doesn’t listen.
Have you already read this book? Check out our list of similar books to Speak!
A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
Set in a New England boarding school during World War II, A Separate Peace revolves around the friendship between the introspective and intellectual Gene and the charismatic and athletic Finny.
Both novels delve into the complexities of friendship and the process of self-discovery amidst conflict and turmoil.
They reveal the darker side of being a teenager, showcasing how external conflicts and pressures in society can lead to internal battles and personal transformation.
There are numerous books that can stir the same emotions and delve as deep into similar themes as SE Hinton’s iconic novel.
Are you looking for books similar to The Outsiders? Do you have any that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments!