Published in 1967 by Viking Press, The Outsiders was S.E. Hinton's first novel. The rivalry between the "greasers" and the "socs" was based on events in her own high school, the Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Hinton began writing the novel during her sophomore year, and it was published when she was just seventeen years old. Hinton says of the inspiration behind the story:
"One day, a friend of mine was walking home from school and these "nice" kids jumped out of a car and beat him up because they didn't like him being a greaser. This made me mad and I just went home and started pounding out a story about this boy who was beaten up while he was walking home from the movies - the beginning of The Outsiders."
When it was released, The Outsiders' portrayal of juvenile delinquents caused controversy. However, it was wildly popular among young adults, selling over four million copies in the United States. The Outsiders earned such publicity that the pressure caused Hinton to suffer from three years of writer's block.
Over the years, The Outsiders has won various awards, including making the New York Herald Tribune Best Teenage Books List and the Chicago Tribune Book World Spring Book Festival Honor Book, both in 1967. It also won the Media and Methods Maxi Award and was named one of the ALA Best Young Adult Books, both in 1975. In 1979, it won the Massachusetts Children’s Book Award.
A film version was produced in 1983, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It featured C. Thomas Howell as Ponyboy, Rob Lowe as Soda, Emilo Estevez as Two-Bit Mathews, Matt Dillon as Dally Winston, Tom Cruise as Steve Randle, Patrick Swayze as Darry, Ralph Macchio as Johnny Cade, and Diane Lane as Cherry Valance.