"If a body catch a body coming through the rye..."- J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye.
There are 3 things I knew about The Catcher in the Rye before I read the book - It is entirely about Holden Caulfield, Holden Caulfield is a prized douche bag and Holden Caulfield is real.
Set in the 1950s, The Catcher in the Rye is about an unstable boy probably 16 or 17 in age who has been unable to last for long in schools. The story begins when Holden Caulfield is expelled from Pencey School and is set to return home for Christmas in 5 days time. However, frustrated by the pretentious people in his school, he leaves in the middle of the night, planning on spending the 5 days in New York. The story follows Holden shuffling between poor motels and bars, visiting museums and the central park and meeting old acquaintances.
When I say Caulfield is real, I mean his cynical, judgmental and distant personality is something you may have seen somewhere, in a friend maybe or worse, yourself. Caulfield is also, as it becomes steadily obvious, depressed and borderline suicidal. You can imagine two sides of Holden, one complaining about anything anyone does and the other doing those exact things he dislikes about others. And as disagreeable as Holden can get, most of the times you simply want to reach out to him.
Some other characters include Ackley (unhygienic), Stradlater (vain), Sally Hayes (annoying), Phoebe Caulfield (wise and like-able), Mr. Antolini (perverse and perhaps misunderstood), Mr. Spencer (deaf and interfering) and Carl Luce (Irritable). Most characters that we come across are portrayed in a negative light as a representation of Holden's criticism.
The books talks of sex and profanities in a casual manner which has been controversial but it is not graphical and in my opinion, the negative hype is not justified. However, this book does deal with topics of depression, innocence, childhood and growing up in a manner that makes you feel helpless and sad and is perhaps not recommended for children.
What I love about this book is the detailing. Small things like a 'fuck you' written on a school wall which makes the book even more real. The school memories Holden associates with say a museum or a park are easy to relate to.
While some people call it a classic and the others remain apprehensive, I would say it is a good book. It is easy to read and understand, and not particularly long (or short for that matter). It is definitely not going to be everyone's cup of tea but probably the sort of book everyone should read at least once.