First hardcover edition, 1967
|Author||S. E. Hinton|
|Cover artist||Robert Hunt|
|Genre||Young adult fiction|
|Publisher||Viking Press, Dell Publishing|
|April 24, 1967|
|Media type||Print (hardcover, paperback), Audiobook|
|Followed by||That Was Then, This Is Now|
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 16 and a junior in high school. Hinton was 18 when the book was published. The book details the conflict between two rival gangs divided by their socioeconomic status: the working-class "greasers" and the upper-class "Socs" (pronounced --short for Socials). The story is told in first-person perspective by teenaged protagonist Ponyboy Curtis.
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. A stage adaptation was written by Christopher Sergel and published in 1990.
Ponyboy Curtis, a teenaged member of a loose gang of "greasers", is leaving a movie theater when he is jumped by "Socs", the greasers' rival gang. Several greasers, including Ponyboy's two older brothers--the paternal Darry and the popular Sodapop--come to his rescue. The next night, Ponyboy and two greaser friends, the hardened Dally and the quiet Johnny, meet Cherry and Marcia, a pair of Soc girls, at a drive-in movie theater. Cherry spurns Dally's rude advances, but Ponyboy ends up speaking civilly with Cherry, emotionally connecting with a Soc for the first time in his life.
Afterward, Ponyboy, Johnny, and their wisecracking friend Two-Bit begin to walk Cherry and Marcia home, when they are stopped by Cherry's boyfriend Bob, who badly beat up Johnny a few months back. Bob and the greasers exchange taunts, but Cherry prevents a fight by willingly leaving with Bob. Ponyboy gets home at two in the morning, enraging Darry until he suddenly slaps Ponyboy. Ponyboy runs out the door and meets up with Johnny, expressing his anger at Darry's increasing coldness in the wake of his parents' recent deaths in a car crash.
Ponyboy and Johnny wander into a park, where Bob and four other Socs surround them. After some heated talk, Ponyboy spits at the Socs, prompting them to try to drown him in a nearby fountain, but Johnny stabs Bob, killing him and dispersing the Socs. Terrified of what to do next, Ponyboy and Johnny rush to find Dally, who gives them money and a loaded gun, directing them to hide in an abandoned church in Windrixville. During their stay there, Pony cuts and dyes his hair as a disguise, reads Gone with the Wind to Johnny, and, upon viewing a beautiful sunrise, recites the poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost.
Days later, Dally comes to check on them, revealing that violence between the greasers and Socs has escalated since Bob's death into all-out city-wide warfare, with Cherry acting out of guilt as a spy for the greasers. Johnny decides to turn himself in and Dally agrees to take the boys back home. As they attempt to leave, they notice the church has caught fire and several local schoolchildren have become trapped inside. The greasers run inside the burning church to save the children, but Ponyboy is rendered unconscious by the fumes. At the hospital he discovers that he and Dally are not badly injured, but a piece of the church roof fell on Johnny and broke his back. Sodapop and Darry come to the hospital; Darry breaks down and cries. Ponyboy then realizes that Darry cares about him, and is only hard on Ponyboy because he loves him and cares about his future.
The following morning the newspapers declare Pony and Johnny heroes, but Johnny will be charged with manslaughter for Bob's death. Two-Bit tells them that the greaser–Soc rivalry is to be settled in a final rumble. Ponyboy and Two-Bit are approached by a Soc named Randy, Bob's best friend, who expresses remorse for his involvement in the gang war, lacks confidence about the rumble ending the feud, and says he will not participate.
Later, Ponyboy visits Johnny at the hospital, where he is in critical condition. On their way home, Pony spots Cherry and they talk. Cherry says she is unwilling to visit Johnny in the hospital because he killed her boyfriend. Pony calls her a traitor, but after explaining herself, they end on good terms. After escaping the hospital, Dally shows up just in time for the rumble. The greasers win the brutal fight. Afterward, Pony and Dally hurry back to the hospital to see Johnny, but he dies moments later and a maniacal Dally runs out of the room. Pony returns home that night feeling confused and disoriented. Dally calls the house to say that he has robbed a store and is running from the police. The greasers find Dally deliberately pointing an unloaded gun at the police, causing them to shoot and kill him. Overwhelmed, Ponyboy faints and is sick in bed for several days due to the resulting concussion. When the hearing finally comes, the judge frees Ponyboy from responsibility for Bob's death and allows Pony to remain at home with Darry and Soda.
Ponyboy returns to school, but his grades drop. Although he is failing English, his teacher, Mr. Syme, 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 his essay with the opening line of the novel: "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..." 
The Outsiders was a controversial book at the time of its publication; it is still currently challenged and debated. 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, strong language/slang, and family dysfunction. However, in many U.S. schools, the book is part of the English curriculum at the middle- or high-school level.