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What (as in 'what happens'): The Outsiders tells the story of gang violence though the point of view of a young man, Ponyboy, who like many young people, struggles to discover his own sense of identity. The two rival gangs, the Socs and the Greasers, battle to establish their own sense of superiority, and when Johnny kills their leader in the heat of the moment, he and Ponyboy are caught up in a serious conflict that may cost both their lives.
Why (as in 'Why does it matter?'): Ponyboy's coming of age story feels incredibly relevant to young readers who can identify with his problems fitting in at school, being bullied, feeling lonely or like an 'outsider.' The Outsiders reinforces the idea that family and friendship not only provide strength and comfort through difficult times, but also help define who we are.
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