Book Review | Catcher in the Rye

Catcher in the Rye
J. D. Salinger

Genre(s) | Coming of Age, Young Adult, Classic
Goodreads Rating | 3.8
Humpo Rating | 2.5


For 2017 I am attempting to read more books deemed to have a “classic” status, and for my birthday last year I received The Catcher in the Rye, and in December I finally got around to reading it. To say I was very disappointed with what I ended up reading would be an understatement. Billed as a classic of American literature, this coming of age tale concerns a school drop out who heads back to New York City to let out some of his teenage angst, and to spend his money in whatever way he pleases before reality comes back and he has to face the real world.

I recently listened to a podcast about the differences between commercial and literary fiction. I think Catcher was aimed at being the latter as there is not much plot, and I think Salinger has attempted to make Holden Caulfield (the protagonist) and his feelings the main event. However, I feel that Catcher is a classic for that period, in terms of the new and unheard of teenage angst that was unconventional in literature during that period, in a much similar fashion that A Rebel Without A Cause became a hit. Both Catcher and Rebel are pretty average as we read and watch them in the 21st century, but at the time of their release they were deemed significant, and have subsequently become classics. Nowadays, the behaviour of the angry teenager is viewed as just plain weird, with many of the emotions and actions quite simply unrelatable.

Salinger wrote unconventionally, but the writing style bored and irritated me very quickly as he only uses 20 words in the whole book…that may be an exaggeration, but I lost count of the times I had to read the words “phony”, “killed me” and “intellectual”.

My favourite chapter was when Holden visits Mr. Antolini.  Antolini’s assessment of Holden is very good and well presented, and his prediction for Holden’s future is believable considering what we have read in the preceding 200 pages. I did like the quote of Wilhelm Stekel that he used:

“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for  a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” 

But even the eloquent words that Mr. Antolini gave to Holden were soon forgotten after he wakes up with Mr. Antolini’s hand on his head. I read the situation in a totally different way than Holden did, as was the same for pretty much every situation in the book, I thought he was tenderly watching over him and hoping that the words he said to him would have a positive impact and that Holden would turn his life around.

I read this due to the classic status that it has, but having finished it I will only read classics that can claim to be”timeless”, those that can survive the test of time rather than reading them during a context that isn’t relatable. For many classics that are written in different eras, from ww2 to Cold War, to the 90’s, there is something about books set in these times that lasts to this day. For this book, the teenage angst is unlike anything I can relate to or can fathom, the absurdity of his actions and thoughts just bewildered me. I feel like that this teenage angst is felt by a minute minority of people. I never studied this book at school, it is perhaps studied more in America, but I suppose the reason it is studied is to provide a different writing style and topic in comparison to the well written, eventful and meaningful classics.

The Humpo Show | Richard

13 thoughts on “Book Review | Catcher in the Rye

  1. I have mixed feelings about this book. I liked parts of it, and I did find Holden an interesting character. However, it is by no means a favorite, and it did not leave a lasting impression on me.

    • This has been the first classic in a while that I did not enjoy much. The last one I didn’t enjoy was The Man in the High Castle. They were both uneventful, and the personal inner monologue weren’t deep or affecting. Although, I must admit the Man in the High Castle TV show looks good haha

  2. Yes, the book most definitely had more of an impact back then. It is not what you would call a timeless book.

    I agree with the repetitiveness of the words you mentioned – those and ‘(…) depressed me’.

    You got the same edition has me! At least the cover is nice, right? The lettering is sort of golden… Eh.

  3. I’m kind of glad we never studied this in school. I think with the term ‘classic’ I simply assume they’re going to be epic reads but, as you said Catcher in the Rye was a classic for the period but nowadays doesn’t have that same scope. I’ve seen quite a few people make a similar statement about the book and it’s just reaffirmed my decision to not read it. Great review. 😀

  4. I only read this to see ‘what all the fuss was about’ but I did actually enjoy it a lot. I found it a pleasant, easy read but mainly, I really liked Holden. Not for any pretentious reasons haha, I just thought he was a nice kid. I still don’t understand the “hype” though !

    • When I was doing the Goodreads Rating for this post I was surprised that the rating was 3.8, as ‘classics’ usually have a much higher rating. I don’t think I will ever understand the hype either.

  5. I’ve been putting off reading this for years, since teenage angst usually leaves me wishing the human race would hurry up and become extinct, but in a moment of weakness I put it on my Classics Club list. Wish I hadn’t now… it sounds totally phony and I’m pretty sure will depress me… 😉

    • Haha 😉
      Well this book has put me on my guard when choosing my next classic to read (that’s a plus point right?)
      But it has put me off any books likely to contain teenage angst..

  6. I read the book many years ago, to see what the fuss was, and I couldn’t get into it. I finished it, but I can barely remember what it was about.

    Lately I’ve been thinking I should re-read the book to see if I feel differently. But after reading your review, and the comments, I might pass.

    • “Classics” are a bit hit-and-miss with me. This one is definitely one of my least favourites. But the positive I take out of reading a book I end up disliking, is that I am developing my own personal taste in literature. Not EVERY “classic” piece of literature will be for me, the same can be said of films.

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