• Reading Levels 3 - 5

The Catcher in the Rye

Critics are split on this timeless classic, which seems to lay teenagehood out on a silver platter. Much like teenagers themselves, the book is divisive. Some enthuse endlessly over its 16-year-old protagonist’s “sensitive genius” and “tragic heroism”, whilst others call it a torture of adolescent whining. It follows an almost stream-of-consciousness subjective monologueA long speech by one person. from the perspective of Holden, its protagonist, as he is expelled from his boarding school, slighted by his love interest and close friend, and caught in skittish adventures in New York City. The adventures include propositioning a prostitute for a reflective conversation, inappropriately haranguing a potentially queer former friend, leading on a “phony” ex, and gravely misinterpreting a paternal gesture from a beloved former teacher. But between these episodes, described alternately as “tedious” and “thrilling”, there is a sweetness that even the most severe critic cannot refute: the teenager’s keen grief from the loss of his brother Allie, his protective love for his younger sister Phoebe, and his desperate conviction that youth should not be corrupted.

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