Holden Caulfield is a sixteen year old adolescent who narrates how he has reached where he currently is. It all begins with him being expelled from prep school, Pencey, for failing almost all his subjects. He decides to leave the premises after getting into a fight with his room-mate and feeling like no one understands him. All this about three days before the official leaving date. However, he doesn’t want his family to know yet that he has been expelled knowing that his mother in particular would be disappointed. Instead, he decides to go and stay in a hotel in New York. His adventures include drinking, smoking, refusing a hooker, setting up a date with girl he does not particularly like, all with disastrous endings. He is lonely, depressed and hates the phoniness around him. The only things he reminisces fondly about are his late brother Allie, his younger sister Phoebe and a girl he used to like (and probably still does), Jane.
I bought this book after hearing high praises about it and how it was a coming-of-age novel. Admittedly, I had high expectations. And unfortunately, the book didn’t meet those expectations. I got the themes of loneliness, alienation, hypocrisy of society and the fact that Holden most likely was clinically depressed but nobody seemed to know it. However, I just could not like him. He has got to be one of the most annoying characters and protagonists. I know depressed individuals are unable to see anything positive but his negativity was bloody draining. He kept referring to the phoniness of others and all the time I wanted to slap him on the head and tell him to get over himself. Because, by judging others as phoney, he came across that way too! I don’t know how it is a coming-of-age novel. In no way does it show me that his innocence was lost. He comes across as a whiny adolescent with too much money and too big for his boots. I have read other coming-of-age books and the loss of innocence where you really feel it (To Kill a Mockingbird, anyone?) but this one just did not do it for me. The writing style was also a bit frustrating with things ‘killing’ Holden and the ‘no kidding’ even in places you wouldn’t normally use it.
I don’t know if I’m missing something. I know others have rated it highly on Goodreads so I will be more than happy for you to comment on this and tell me why I am wrong!
The only reason it’s not a 1 is because it still touches on issues of mental health which are always close to my heart. However, lots of other authors have done a better job on that topic.