holden caulfield, ponyboy curtis, and my teen book club

"Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody."

Recognize it?

For me it's one of the most memorable final sentences ever written.

I just finished re-reading The Catcher in the Rye, possibly for the first time since reading it (twice) in high school. I remembered it in a theoretical way, but had forgotten the details. It's a funny, sad, perfect little book.

I'm not breaking any new ground when I call Catcher the original young-adult novel. Every John Green and Ned Vizzini and Stephen Chbosky narrator, every wise-cracking alienated youth straight through to Buffy Summers and Veronica Mars, inherits their voice from Holden. Catcher, published in 1951, is more influential now than when S. E. Hinton started to write The Outsiders only 13 years later.

I had the perfect incentive to re-read Catcher: it's this month's selection for my teen book club. The core group of members are bored with cookie-cutter youth novels. They want substance. Over the past year, we've read The Outsiders, Fahrenheit 451, The Golden Compass and Ender's Game, now Catcher, and later To Kill A Mockingbird. They know they'll read some of these titles for school, but they want to read them now, with our group.

We have quality newer titles on the list, too: M. T. Anderson's Feed, Saving Houdini, historical magic realism set in Toronto, Kelley Armstrong's Loki's Wolves, and of course, the incomparable Eleanor & Park. But I find their thirst for classics so touching and inspiring.

I won't be the youth-services librarian at Central Library forever. Whenever I do move on, I will miss this group.

No comments: