Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the RyeTitle: The Catcher in the Rye 
Author: J.D. Salinger
Publication: Originally published in hardcover by Little, Brown and Co., July 1951 and First Back Bay Paperback edition, January 2001.
Description: 224 pages
Price: U.S. $6.99 / Canada $8.50
ISBN-10: 0-316-76917-7
ISBN-13: 978-031676917

*Contains Spoilers*

This past week was Banned Book Week in the United States. To celebrate this event, I decided to read a book that has been challenged since 1961, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

I admit in high school when The Catcher and the Rye was assigned by my English Teacher my junior year, I never finished reading the book. In fact, I think I quit reading it only a few chapters in to the book. I felt the main character and narrator, Holden Caulfield, was an annoying, whiny teenager, which is the main reason why I quit reading the book in high school.

At the time, I did not understand why The Catcher in the Rye was, and still is, considered one of the great works of fiction. For nearly 20 years, whenever anyone said they loved the book and it was one of their all-time favorites, I looked at them as if they were crazy. What did they find so poignant about this novel?

Earlier this year, I decided to re-read novels I never finished when I was in school, to look at the novels with an adult’s point-of-view rather than a teenager’s. So when Banned Book Week came up, I decided to re-read The Catcher in the Rye.

Only four chapters in to the re-reading, I realized another reason why I did not finish the book: Holden Caulfield’s excessive use of a blasphemous word. Reading this book as an adult, the use of the word throughout the novel didn’t necessarily offend me, but the excessive use of it did offend me, personally. However, stepping back and reading it as an editor, who has read through the whole novel, I wouldn’t have deleted a single one because Caulfield’s use of the word helps to describe his personality right before he has a mental breakdown.

As I continued to read through the book, I could see the teenage angst most teenagers go through. Everything other people did bothered Holden Caulfield and it caused Caulfield to act out against whoever annoyed him. Teenagers are constantly acting out against their parents, siblings, adults, animals…the list goes on and on.

Reading The Catcher in the Rye as an adult, I forced myself to read it without using my bias from my teenage years, but it really was hard. Realizing four chapters in that Caulfield still was a privileged, whiny teenager made my desire to finish the book next to impossible. I successfully finished the book this time!

My final conclusions…I still don’t understand why The Catcher in the Rye is considered a must read. I am not a fan of the language, sexual content, and underage drinking and smoking to name a few of the challenges against the book. The main reason why I still don’t like The Catcher in the Rye is because the main character is a privileged, whiny teenager who is on the verge of a mental breakdown. I personally do not find any redeeming value from having read it, except to say, “Yes, I have read it.” Even though, I dislike The Catcher in the Rye I will never try to challenge or ban the book as I know people who have been deeply moved by the book.

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