The Outsiders is a book that delves deeply into the hearts, minds, and stories of a group that had no voice before S. E. Hinton gave them one. She began writing the book at age 15, spurred on by the disturbing trend she saw growing in her high school towards division between groups. "I was worried and angered by the social situation," Hinton writes. "I saw two groups at the extreme ends of the social scale behaving in an idiotic fashion -- one group was being condemned and one wasn't.... When a friend of mine was beaten up for no other reason than that some people didn't like the way he combed his hair, I took my anger out by writing about it."
Thirty years after it was first published, The Outsiders still carries the same frightening and unifying messages for teens (and readers of all ages). The ruthlessly realistic and violent story of the Greasers and the Socs, rival gangs from very different sides of the railroad tracks, is narrated by Ponyboy Curtis, a smart, sensitive kid who has grown to become one of the most recognizable figures in the history of young adult literature. Any teen who has ever felt isolated or different can identify with Ponyboy, a kid forced to be tough on the outside, but who underneath is just as scared and needy as anyone. Hinton herself has said that she has never written a character as close to her own self as Ponyboy is. Young Adult fiction was shaped and defined by Susan Eloise Hinton, and the realism she attached to the genre became the norm, enabling later writers like Robert Cormier and Judy Blume to find characters and voices that actually spoke to adolescents. Since 1967, Ponyboy has become the hero for countless teenagers nationwide as The Outsiders stands to influence an entire new legion of adolescents who need Ponyboy as much as ever.