This is going to be a short review because, frankly, I don't quite know what to say. Someone may call me out for saying this, but I can't help but wonder why this book is so touted. I admit that Holden Caulfield is a unique and entertaining character. I couldn't help but smile and chuckle every time he said "crumby" or "phoney" or "goddam" for the hundredth time. But as I read, I started to notice that Holden seems very dissatisfied with everything and everyone around him. Like his sister says, "You don't like anything that happens." I started to form an impression that Holden is bipolar. He certainly has some kind of mental disturbance going on with himself which I think stems from the loss of his younger brother to cancer. Back then, there really wasn't so much openness toward mental illness. And people didn't yet understand the effects of a death in the family on a young child and that said child might need counseling to help him/her deal with the loss. Holden needed that kind of help and when he didn't get it, he blasted the world, so to speak. But I think his 'dislike' of everything is really him reflecting his despair on the world. There is also a part toward the end where sexual abuse is alluded to and that could also be at play in Holden's character and his behavior.
In all, I would have to say that the book is a great character study, but I was expecting it to be much better.
About the book:
Anyone who has read J.D. Salinger's New Yorker stories ? particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, The Laughing Man, and For Esme ? With Love and Squalor, will not be surprised by the fact that his first novel is fully of children. The hero-narrator of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep. (from Goodreads)