It's hard to know what to say about this book that hasn't already been said. I kept hearing that I'd either love it or hate it and I was truly interested in how it would shake down for me, never having read it when I was younger.
I ended up falling more in the "loved it" camp. But here is why, I think: my dear friend LOVED this book as a teen. LOVED it. And I think as I read, I kept imagining her as a teen reading it - her and countless other teens finding in Holden Caulfield the same dissatisfaction with the world, that same frustration with the phoniness of the people they interacted with. Despite the fact that I felt like he was full of bull some of the time, I believed that he wanted to NOT be full of bull. He wanted to feel like an adult, wanted to NOT have that phoniness that annoyed him so much in others, even though it's clear that he wasn't completely successful.
Yes, there is more cussing in this book than maybe in any book I've ever read. Yes, he has a prostitute in his hotel room once. Yes, he smokes and drinks and wanders New York City and is everything you never want your own son to be...mostly. He's also sorta thoughtful. And he also looks for things that are beautiful and hopeful and nice. And sometimes he would slam me with a thought that was so fabulous, like: "Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know that's impossible, but it's too bad anyway." I think it boiled down to the fact that I was able to swim through his choices and his aimlessness and his foul mouth and I could see that underneath there was a really intelligent, caring human being who just didn't want to put on some smiley face about something when he didn't feel like it. And as teens, weren't MOST of us like that? Crusty and crabby on the outside but still, on the inside, yearning to just find something real to hold on to, remembering that there used to be lots of things that made us feel happy? And in those (really rare) moments when he was happy, I want to just grab him and hug him, although probably he would think that's just me being phony.