Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Catcher in the Rye (book review)

The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger, is a story about struggles, loss, and the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood. The protagonist, 16-year-old Holden Caulfield, has just been kicked out of yet another school, and he's wondering where to go next. He doesn't officially get sent home until Christmas vacation a few days later, so he decides to take off on his own. Holden heads to New York City and stays at a series of cheap hotels, calling up and meeting various acquaintances from his past, all the while scorning the "phoniness" of the adult world in which he is immersed. Finally Holden realizes he has to go home eventually, and that he will inevitably have to face the consequences when he does. So he heads back to his house to visit his little sister, Phoebe, but stalls when it comes to meeting his parents. Hastily, Holden decides that he will run away, out to a place where no one knows him and he can start a new life, but an unexpected show of love and innocence will convince him to stay.

This book was very good; the central characters were for the most part complex and well-developed. Holden himself was a very interesting character; he felt real. He wasn't perfect at all, but his flaws made it more possible for the reader to feel connected to him, and it made him much more interesting to read about. The other characters who appeared throughout the book had varying personalities; none of them, except for perhaps Phoebe, were very complex in regards to their character, but then none of them except for Phoebe played a very central role in the book. The plot itself was intriguing and different, and it was interesting to meet all the various characters Holden experienced and to see how he interacted with them. The ending was perhaps what I liked least about the whole book--it wrapped up the book abruptly and didn't provide many actual answers. Also, I would have liked to see the conversation between him and his parents, which wasn't shown. But don't let this deter you from reading the book; it's heartwarming, sad, and exciting all at once, and it will definitely keep you reading.


Amanda said...

I never had the chance to read this before I was in my 20s and I do wonder if I would have liked it better had I had that chance. As it is, I've read it twice and didn't get much out of it either time.

Jean said...

I just re-read Catcher in the Rye and, I must admit, did not like it nearly as much as I did when I first read it, as a teenager. In fact, I found myself thinking more than once this time around what a whiny kid Holden was. I agree with you, though, that it would have been interesting to see the conversation with his parents. Maybe I could have related more to the parent side of that. I'm glad you liked it, but be prepared to feel differently if you wait 40 years to read it again.

Jeane said...

I like your assessment of the book. That's pretty much how I feel about it.

Debi said...

Amanda and Jean--

Yep, I can kind of see how teenagers might be more interested in or sympathize more with Holden than adults. He DID seem whiny at times ^_^