Wednesday, July 9, 2014


The Catcher in the RyeI've revisited THE CATCHER IN THE RYE.  Since I'll most likely be teaching the book to 12th graders in the coming year, I decided to reread it.  Having read it in high school waaaaayyyy too many years ago, I actually felt like I was reading it for the first time.  The main thing that struck me was how "YA" it is.  Having read many YA novels over the past 8 years as both a teacher and blogger, CATCHER seems to have remained rather relevant.

Holden is dealing with many of the same pressures faced by teens today.  Although the teens I deal with daily are not boarding school students, they are often left to their own devices more than most would believe.  Holden has been kicked out of yet another school and dreads facing his parents.  School is not working out well for him, but he knows it is what is expected of him.  That expectation comes without much support.  His parents are busy with their own lives, and Holden isn't the type to cultivate close friendships so his support system is basically nonexistent. 

There are high expectations of today's teens.  School districts and teacher success rely more and more on high test scores.  Acceptance into preferred colleges and universities is tied to the same high scores and exhausting extracurricular expectations of today's teens.  Unfortunately, the increased stress on teens is not backed up by increased parental support.  Many parents today are struggling to keep ahead financially and day-to-day concerns often take precedence over the emotional needs of their teenagers.  Combine peer pressure, the temptations of stress relieving substances, and the increase in bullying, and many teens have more than they can handle.

In my second reading of Holden's story, I didn't see as many outdated references as I expected.  His stream of consciousness approach that often jumped from one random situation to the next was something I didn't remember from my first reading.  As I read, I found myself comparing this to today's fast-paced communication and access to information.  I tend to think the style will be comfortable for modern teen readers. 

Language wasn't an issue for me, although, a Facebook friend my age mentioned that she found it offense.  Being on the frontlines with middle school and high school teens, it isn't much different than what I know they hear every day.  That isn't meant to condone foul language but rather to recognize, that at least in this area, not much has changed.

Observing Holden's struggle to deal with recent disappointments and previous losses, my heart went out to him.  In putting off the inevitable, he attempts to take on the challenges of the adult world when he would rather cling to the comfort it seems only his younger sister may be able to provide. 

Overall, I would say I found THE CATCHER IN THE RYE still relatable, however, I think I would say my favorite reads come from more recently published YA offerings.  I can't help thinking that the presence of J.D. Salinger on a panel of current YA authors might make for a great event.

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