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The Outsiders is a coming-of-age novel by S. E. Hinton, first published in 1967 by Viking Press. Hinton was 15 when she started writing the novel, but did most of the work when she was sixteen and a junior in high school. Hinton was 18 when the book was published. The book follows two rival groups, the Greasers and the Socs (pronounced by the author as /soʊˈʃəz/, short for Socials), who are divided by their socioeconomic status.
The book takes place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1965, but it is never stated in the book.
A film adaptation was produced in 1983, and a little-known short-lived television series appeared in 1990, picking up where the movie left off.
Ponyboy, a member of the Greasers gang, is leaving a movie theater when a group of Socs jumps him. His older brothers Darry and Sodapop save him. The next night, Ponyboy and his friends Dally and Johnny meet Cherry Valance and Marcia at a drive-in movie theatre. Ponyboy realizes that Cherry is nothing like the Socs he has met before. The Greasers walk Cherry and Marcia home, and Socs Bob Sheldon and Randy Adderson see them and think the boys are trying to pick up their girlfriends. Cherry and Marcia prevent a fight by leaving with Bob and Randy willingly. When Ponyboy comes home very late, Darry gets angry and hits him. Ponyboy runs away and meets up with Johnny. As they wander around the neighborhood, Bob, Randy, and three other drunk Socs confront them. After a Soc nearly drowns Ponyboy in a fountain, a terrified Johnny stabs Bob, accidentally killing him. Ponyboy and Johnny find Dally, who gives them money and a loaded gun and tells them to hide in an abandoned church. They stay there for a few days, during which time Ponyboy reads Gone with the Wind to Johnny and recites the poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost.
When Dally comes to get them, he reveals that the fights between the rival groups have exploded in intensity since Bob's death. Johnny decides to turn himself in, but the boys then notice that the church has caught on fire and several children are trapped inside. When Johnny and Ponyboy rush to rescue them, burning timber falls on Johnny, breaking his back. Dally rescues Johnny. Ponyboy is relatively unscathed and spends a short time in the hospital. When his brothers arrive to see him, Darry breaks down and cries. Ponyboy then realizes that Darry cares about him, and is only hard on Ponyboy because he wants him to have a good future.
Two-Bit informs Ponyboy that he and Johnny have been declared heroes for rescuing the kids, but Johnny will be charged with manslaughter for Bob's death. He also says that the Greasers and Socs have agreed to settle their turf war with a major rumble. The Greasers win the fight. After the rumble, Dally and Ponyboy visit Johnny and see him die. An overcome Dally rushes out of the hospital and robs a store. When he points his empty gun at the police, they shoot and kill him. Ponyboy faints and stays sick and delirious for nearly a week. While recovering, he tries to convince himself that Johnny is not dead and that he is the one who killed Bob.
When Ponyboy goes back to school, his grades drop. Although he is failing English, his teacher says he will pass him if he writes a decent theme. In the copy of Gone with the Wind that Johnny gave him before dying, Ponyboy finds a note from Johnny describing how he will die proudly after saving the kids from the fire. Johnny also urges Ponyboy to "stay gold". Ponyboy decides to write his English assignment about the recent events, and begins: "When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home..."
- Ponyboy Curtis: The youngest Curtis brother, 14 years old, gets good grades and runs track. He is the narrator.
- Sodapop Curtis: The middle Curtis brother, 16 years old, a high school dropout who works at a gas station.
- Darrel "Darry" Curtis: The oldest of the Curtis brothers, 20 years old, has been caring for his brothers since their parents died in a car crash.
- Dallas "Dally" Winston: The roughest of the Greasers, who lived on the streets of New York City for three years.
- Keith "Two-Bit" Mathews: A wise-cracking kleptomaniac.
- Steve Randle: Sodapop's best friend since grade school.
- Johnny Cade: Ponyboy's best friend, 16 years old, lives with his alcoholic and abusive mother and father.
- Sherri "Cherry" Valance: Bob's girlfriend, attends the same high school as Ponyboy.
- Marcia: Cherry's best friend.
- Robert "Bob" Sheldon: Cherry's boyfriend, he is stabbed by Johnny.
- Randy Adderson: A friend of Bob's and Marcia's boyfriend.
- David: A member of Bob and Randy's gang, he attempted to drown Ponyboy in the fountain.
- Jerry Wood: The schoolteacher responsible for the children that were in the abandoned church.
- Mr. Syme: Ponyboy's English teacher who assigns him a theme to write.
The Outsiders was a controversial book at the time of its publication and is still a frequently challenged book nowadays. It was ranked #38 on the American Library Association’s Top 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–1999. This book has been banned from some schools and libraries because of the portrayal of gang violence, underage smoking and drinking, as well as strong language/slang and family dysfunction. However, in many schools today, the book is part of the curriculum for middle school and/or high school.