Book Review // The Catcher in the Rye ⭐⭐

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Book Name: The Catcher in the Rye
Author: J.D. Salinger
◐ Genre: Classic Fiction, Coming-of-Age
◐ Pages: 277

◐ Synopsis (Goodreads):
Fleeing the crooks at Pencey Prep, he pinballs around New York City seeking solace in fleeting encounters—shooting the bull with strangers in dive hotels, wandering alone round Central Park, getting beaten up by pimps and cut down by erstwhile girlfriends. The city is beautiful and terrible, in all its neon loneliness and seedy glamour, its mingled sense of possibility and emptiness. Holden passes through it like a ghost, thinking always of his kid sister Phoebe, the only person who really understands him, and his determination to escape the phonies and find a life of true meaning.

The Catcher in the Rye is an all-time classic in coming-of-age literature- an elegy to teenage alienation, capturing the deeply human need for connection and the bewildering sense of loss as we leave childhood behind.

Recommended for readers who enjoy analysing multi-layered, symbolic literature, unreliable narrators

Content Warning:
allusions to sexual assault and abuse, frequent mentions of suicidal ideation, child death, and sex

Review: 2/5 ⭐
Once upon a time, I read this book as a young, impressionable high school student in AP English. I did not enjoy it and largely deleted it from my brain.

Now as a grown woman in her early thirties, I read it again. I still did not enjoy it.


I can appreciate aspects of the book that I overlooked during the first reading. For instance, Salinger is brilliant. If I was not so turned off by other elements, this is the sort of book I would love to reread again and again, and I think I would gain something from it every time. That is the mark of a true classic.

As with Salinger’s other works, he incorporates heavy use of symbolism and repetition. Throughout the book, I would note to myself that I’m certain something holds significance; I just didn’t know what it was yet. By the climax/ending, everything came together beautifully in a way that made my analytical mind giddy with excitement.

For such a (relatively) small book, it holds an abundance of themes and meanings. I absolutely love books like that. The story is told through first-person narrative from Holden’s perspective. And as a narrator, Holden is completely unreliable, which made the reading super fun for me. How much of his story is a lie? That’s something the reader has to consider throughout.

The book is about growing up, and Holden’s resistance to it. It’s also about Holden’s sense of alienation from the world, and his struggles with loneliness, even as he despises those he keeps reaching out to for connection. Society and its conventions disgust him. He repeatedly complains of “phoniness,” in everyone around him. Holden wants a more authentic world, of genuine people. I can relate to that.

There is not much in way of a plot, which is very like Salinger’s other book, Franny and Zooey. After Holden gets expelled, he basically just wanders around New York, meeting strangers and calling up random people he knows. As he does so, he reminisces on his life, thinking a lot about his younger sister Phoebe, with whom he shares a strong bond.

The reason why I dislike this book is mainly personal preference. The aura of Catcher in the Rye is distinctly disturbing, in a way that gets under your skin. There is also a lot of mention of sex, heavy hinting at assault and rape, though not explicit.

I also did not like Holden. Or rather, I sometimes enjoyed him, and other times really hated him. He is hilariously snarky. He is protective of others and sentimental. He is also a hypocrite and a self-professed liar. I don’t think Holden is meant to be liked, but he is certainly relatable.

In spite of its many merits, I would not read this book again.

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