Thursday, January 20, 2011

Catcher, Caught reviewed

Sixteen year-old narrator Daniel Landon has leukemia, and may only have a year to live—even if he does have the chemotherapy treatment his doctors suggest. But his hippie parents decide to give him alternative herbal treatment instead, and pull him out of school (too many germs being around other kids). Shouldn't he have a say in his own life, and what treatment he receives? Isn't it important, too, to be around his school friends and have a social life as his life winds down? Will his parents ever acknowledge his opinions? Even with the weight and worry of his own mortality on his mind, author Sarah Collins Honenberger does a good job of reminding the reader that young Daniel can still have plain old teenage worries. Like, does that new girl (Meredith) in the neighborhood actually like him? And what Halloween party should he attend, his best friend's or the rich kid's, who may have eyes for the same girl Daniel does.

Feeling more and more isolated—both because of his illness and his removal from school—Daniel turns to the voice of The Catcher in the Rye's Holden Caulfield for guidance. Holden, of course, is the unhappy, cynical sixteen year-old kicked out of his prep school, and trying to find himself in New York City before returning home to face the music. But Holden has his whole life to figure things out—Daniel has only a year. Honenberger's teenage protagonist never allows himself to become cynical like Caufield, even though he has every reason to. Daniel instead seeks to gain control over his life (or death), and wants the responsibility—whatever the result. He loves his parents, but what if they are making the wrong decision?

Written in the first person (as is Salinger's book), author Honenberger does a good job getting into the head of her lead character. Sometimes his music and film references may seem too old fashioned for him, and I wish an important, emotional phone call between Daniel and Meredith toward the end of the book (right before he sets out for New York City) had been shown, and not just mentioned in passing. But those are just nit picks, really. In the acknowledgments, Honenberger is thankful for the chance to honor J. D. Salinger and Holden Caulfield. And what better way to honor them than by inspiring a new generation to read The Catcher in the Rye, and an older generation to rediscover the classic?

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