"The Outsiders" is about a group of lower-class young men in Oklahoma in the mid-1960s, members of two rival gangs: the Greasers and the Socs. The murder of one of the Socs sends the youngest members of the Greasers into hiding and sets off a gang war between the groups.
The main character in "The Outsiders" is Ponyboy Curtis, a high school student who gets good grades and has a promising future. When he and his best friend Johnny are attacked by members of the Socs, Johnny stabs one of the Socs, and the young men are forced to go into hiding in a nearby church. A fire breaks out at the church, critically injuring Johnny and sending him to the hospital. He dies soon after, an event which drives his fellow Greaser, Dally, to confront the police with an unloaded gun. Dally is killed, and Ponyboy decides to leave the gang and devote himself to living a more upstanding life.
"The Outsiders" was written by S.E. Hinton, who was still a high school student when she completed the book. Hinton was 18 when "The Outsiders" was published. She wrote the novel as a way of expressing her dissatisfaction with the social divisions that existed in her school and hometown.