The Outsiders is about the coming of age of Ponyboy Curtis, a teenage boy who lives with his two older brothers, Darry and Sodapop, following the death of his parents. Darry has to work to support his brothers, and he is very hard on Ponboy, who thinks Darry dislikes him. Ponyboy, a member of a gang called the Greasers along with his brothers, is jumped one night when leaving a movie theater by members of a rival gang, called the Socs, or Socials, who are wealthier than the Greasers. He then meets some girls who are associated with the Socs when he is at a drive-in movie theater with his friends and fellow Greasers, Johnny and Dally. Some rival Socs named Bob and Randy see the boys with their girlfriends.
After Ponyboy gets in an argument with his brother Darry and tries to run away, Ponyboy and Johnny run into Bob and Randy and, following the Socs attempt to drown Ponyboy, Johnny (who was earlier beaten up by the Socs) stabs Bob and kills him. Ponyboy and Johnny run to Dally for help, and he tells them to hop on a train and hide out in a deserted church. The boys hide out there until Dally arrives and convinces them to turn themselves in. As they are going to do so, the church catches fire. Both boys are afraid they started the fire because they left smoldering cigarettes inside. They all rescue children who are visiting the church, and a part of the church falls on Johnny. Ponyboy is rendered unconscious. When he wakes up, he realizes he is not injured, and Darry and Sodapop are in the hospital to visit him. He realizes that Darry cares about him.
The Greasers challenge the Socs to a rumble, which they win, but Johnny, who is going to be charged in Bob's death, dies. Dally dies in a fight with the police, but Ponyboy is allowed to stay with his brothers. Ponyboy eventually writes an essay about his experiences to pass his English class. He realizes that his brothers care about him and that he is not suited to the violence around him but learns that he is capable of being a good student and a talented writer.
The story itself is multifaceted; that is what makes it a classic in juvenile literature. Ponyboy is the narrator. He lives with his two older brothers after their parents died. The story is about class conflict, prejudice, bullying, stereotyping, fitting in, finding oneself, and much more. Ponyboy is a greaser. Greasers are constantly fighting with the Socs who are the rich kids. One night Ponyboy and his good friend Johnny get jumped by a carload of Socs and Johnny kills one of them. They then go into hiding. Later they save some kids from a fire and Johnny is burned so badly he eventually dies. Many lessons are learned. A great parallel is drawn between the characters of Johnny and Dally.
On eNotes there are multiple summaries of The Outsiders, all of which are a reasonable length. Here is the link: http://www.enotes.com/topics/outsiders/summary