S(usan) E(loise) Hinton 1950–
Hinton helped to change the tone of young adult fiction with the publication at age seventeen of The Outsiders (1967). Dissatisfied with the pristine portrayals of teenagers in traditional adolescent novels, Hinton drew on experiences in her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, to create this popular story of class conflict and gang rivalry. Critics were impressed with Hinton's unpretentious narrative style and her skillful development of plot and character. Unlike formulaic teenage novels, The Outsiders and Hinton's subsequent works, That Was Then, This Is Now (1971), Rumble Fish (1975), and Tex (1979), deal with such topics as violence, poverty, alcoholism, and drug addiction.
Hinton's works revolve around lower-class teenage male protagonists who are unhappy with their lives and hostile toward others. Each of the young men experiences a conflict between his inner feelings and his reputation among his peers. In The Outsiders, Ponyboy Curtis realizes that the upper-class teenagers he is expected to hate have many of the values that are important to him; Bryon Douglas, in That Was Then, This Is Now, is disturbed because his best friend is a drug dealer; and Rusty-James in Rumble Fish and Tex in Tex both recognize the futility of pretending to be invulnerable.
Some critics fault Hinton for sexism in her portrayals of machismo protagonists and suggest that her female characters are inadequately developed. However, Hinton has been praised for the complexity of her protagonists and for the sensitivity she reveals beneath their tough surfaces. The popularity of Hinton's novels among young adults has been further enhanced by film adaptations of The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, and Tex.
(See also Children's Literature Review, Vol. 3; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 81-84; and Something about the Author, Vol. 19.)