The Catcher in the Rye

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My high school didn’t subscribe to many of the tried-and-true classic staples of literature. I read Steinbeck–after an hour long lecture about the symbology of a turtle crossing the road, I decided that I would never voluntarily pick up another one of his novels. I read Ordinary People, and couldn’t relate to the depressed kid at the center of that novel.

So when I saw that The Catcher in the Rye was on the reading list for this year’s YA Materials list, I was cautiously, tentatively, curious. I went out to the nearest used bookstore and picked up my copy.

The Catcher in the Rye, Little Brown Books Edition

The Catcher in the Rye, Little Brown Books Edition. It is very, very white.

The copy I got had a simple white cover. The back cover was even simpler and whiter–there was the ISBN and the barcode. That was it. No synopsis.

Now, I should mention that while I was very aware of The Catcher in the Rye as a classic novel, I was not aware of the plot of the book. So I went looking, and ended up on Goodreads.com.

There were some good reviews and some bad reviews. mark monday’s review was a review of pure artistry and really exemplified the range of reactions that readers of different ages have to this book. One thing that I took from the reviews was that the book was most relatable for fifteen-year-old boys. I won’t pretend that that’s anything but a generalization.

So I started to read the book. About 100 pages in, I decided that I could see the allure of this book: it was a grand, rebellious adventure in New York. Holden Caulfield had money and spent it where he wanted, said what he thought (or at least wrote it into the narrative), and he had girls he could call, despite his less-than-stellar skills at romance. Because of that, I decided that this would be an excellent book for a fifteen-year-old boy. The problem, I felt was that I have never been, and never will be, a fifteen-year-old boy.

Adding to this was was what I felt was an unresolved ending. Holden’s escape to New York provides the potential for several lessons, but Holden doesn’t learn from the situations he puts himself into. In the end, Holden hasn’t matured as a character. He hasn’t learned from his mistakes. It was an unrewarding end.

I feel like there are teens who can profit from reading this novel. I can’t say that I would recommend it to a teen under the age of 14 or 15.

I wasn’t a fan of this book as an adult, and judging from my reaction to Ordinary People, I wouldn’t have liked it as a teen.

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