Critical Overview

(Novels for Students)

Hinton is considered the most successful writer for young adults in contemporary times. In fact, she is often credited with creating the genre of "young adult literature" as a viable and attractive genre for junior high and high school audiences. Critics have generally been impressed with her work since her first novel, The Outsiders, was published in 1967.

Critics compare her favorably with Ernest Hemingway in terms of sentence structure, minimal description, and the exploration of conventional male and female roles. She has often been faulted for these same qualities: in particular, that her work presents an unreal and violent male culture where viable female personalities, let alone mothers, scarcely exist. Despite the criticism, Hinton remains popular among young readers. She continues to win awards, especially from librarians.

The most contentious issue in Hinton's work is her use of violence. Some commentators view the violence as integral—not gratuitous—to her work. Another of Hinton's tendencies is to revisit the same themes with the same devices in each novel. In fact, most of her stories are about young male protagonists who survive several obstacles to gain self-knowledge.

Many readers and fans of Hinton's agree with Jay Daly's praise in his Presenting S. E. Hinton. There he wrote:

Tex is clearly the most seamless of her books. The voice is consistent and appropriate throughout. It is Tex's voice, Tex's consciousness. The controlling, manipulating hand of the author is far in the background.

Yet critics view Tex as a breakthrough for Hinton, partly for her successful development of a strong, complex female character. Cynthia Rose,...

(The entire section is 722 words.)