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50 Years Ago, A Teenage Girl Wrote This Best Selling Book

No one could have known that the best selling young adult novel of all time (before Harry Potter) would be written by a teenage girl from Oklahoma.

Fifty years ago, S.E. Hinton was a 19-year-old high school student who was sick and tired of reading stories about teen life that were written by out of touch adults. She mailed her manuscript for A Different Sunset to Viking Press with hopes that someone else would support her vision.

She received a contract to write the book on the day she graduated from Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Hinton's editor encouraged her to hide her gender by initialing her given name Susan Eloise, which might be a deterrent to male readers. Her novel was renamed The Outsiders and quickly sold off the shelves.

The novel was loved by millions of readers, but none loved it more than librarian Jo Ellen Misakian and the students at Lone Star School in Fresno, California.

She wrote to director Francis Ford Coppola in 1980 with petition from 110 students and a copy of the book. She encouraged Coppola to read the book and make a movie based on the story.

Incredibly, she received a reply from Fred Roos at Hollywood General Studios on behalf of Coppola. They would be pursuing the production of the film, in part thanks to the enterprising librarian and her students!

In 1983, this best selling novel was brought to life on the screen in a coming-of-age drama directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Starring young Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon and Diane Lane.

Today, the novel still sells half a million copies every year. Millions of readers grew up with the story of these boys. A story that had been written by a teenage girl who was tired of the status quo.

About twenty years later, the efforts of 110 teens at another high school brought her vision to life on the screen. Fifty years from the day it was first published, the story is still making it's mark on a whole new generation of teens.

[Source: Letters of Note / Timeline]

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