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S.E. Hinton: Biography, Books & Awards

Instructor: Francesca Marinaro

Francesca M. Marinaro has a PhD in English from the University of Florida and has been teaching English composition and Literature since 2007.

Young adult literature wouldn't be what it is today without S.E. Hinton, whose beloved novels expanded the genre from light romance stories to real-life struggles of the teenage experience. Find out more about Hinton's life, her body of work and the awards she's received, then test your knowledge with a quiz.

Who is S.E. Hinton?

S.E. Hinton is the pen name of the American author, Susan Eloise Hinton. Hinton was born in 1948 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the plots of her stories are mainly set. She loved reading as a child and teenager, but found her reading selection very limited. She once said, 'A lot of adult literature was older than I was ready for. The kids' books were all Mary Jane goes-to-prom junk.' She wrote, simply put, 'so I'd have something to read.'

The sales of her first novel, The Outsiders, were so successful that she was able to attend the University of Tulsa, where she met her future husband, David Inhofe. They later had a son, Nicholas David. Hinton's success as a writer has included five young adult novels, two children's books and, more recently, two adult novels. She has also acted as a consultant on film adaptations of her novels, including Francis Ford Coppola's wildly popular 1983 adaptation of The Outsiders.

Young Adult Books by S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders (1967)

Hinton's first and probably most famous novel is The Outsiders. She began writing the book when she was only 16, and it revolutionized young adult fiction with its hard-hitting portrayal of teenagers. The novel is about Ponyboy Curtis, his two brothers, Darrel and Sodapop, and the gang of boys called the Greasers. The novel offers up some harsh truths for teens about life, death, family, and friendship. The title references the fact that the story is about 'outsiders' or social outcasts rather than the popular kids, a theme that Hinton continually explores in her fiction.

That Was Then, This Is Now (1971)

Four years later, Hinton published That Was Then, This Is Now. Like The Outsiders, it looks at the lives of teenagers in a rough town and the challenges of peer pressure, drugs, and gang violence. The novel tells the story of Bryon Douglas and Mark Jennings, who have grown up like brothers since Mark's parents killed each other in a drunken brawl and Bryon's mother adopted him. While she is in the hospital, the boys have to stick together and work to earn money, which Mark does by selling drugs. With Mark always living for the thrill while Bryon is struggling to figure out what kind of man he wants to be, That Was Then, This Is Now deals with the harsh truth of growing up and accepting adult responsibility, even if it means dealing out tough love, as when Bryon makes the decision to turn Mark into the police for selling drugs.

Rumble Fish (1975)

Rumble Fish tells the story of Rusty-James, a 14 year-old boy who spends his time drinking, gang fighting, and playing pool for money. He lives with his older brother, who is known only as the 'Motorcycle Boy' because of his obsession with motorcycles. The boys' mother lives in California, having left when Rusty-James was very little, and the story focuses on his struggles with an alcoholic father who ignores him and a brother who is often away.

Tex (1979)

In Tex, the title character, Tex McCormick, and his older brother Mason, live on their own while their father tours the rodeo circuit. Like The Outsiders and Rumble Fish, Tex deals with the challenges of growing up and absent parents as Mason is forced to step into a parental role with their mother long dead and their father always away.

Taming the Star Runner (1988)

Taming the Star Runner tells the story of 16 year-old Travis Harris, a tough kid in a big city who is also an aspiring writer. When he comes home one day to find his step-father trying to burn his writing in the fireplace, Travis attacks him with a poker and is sent to live with his Uncle Ken on a horse-ranch outside Tulsa. It's the only one of Hinton's young adult novels written in the third person, a shift that critics say reflects her own maturity as a writer.

That was Then, This is Now (1971)
That was Then, This is Now (1971)

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