|illustration by Rakka
At fifteen years old, I was an avid reader. (Still am, in fact.) My favorite book at the time was Watership Down by Richard Adams, but I also tore through V.C. Andrews' entire pre-mortem oeuvre, anything by Ray Bradbury, and Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series. These books are all fantasy or have fantastical elements, but they spoke to my reality. True, I am not a rabbit or an orphan; I never fought evil fascist overlords or rode a dragon. But in those books, despite the superficial differences between their characters and settings and my ordinary suburban life, I found a lot of common ground. I wasn't struggling with authority, but I was struggling with emotions. I didn't need to be told it was all right to rebel - I already felt like a quirky outsider, and I needed to hear that there was strength in being unique. I didn't want to drink, smoke, or have sex, and I didn't really fit in with all the kids who were into that sort of thing. I just wanted to find my compadres, my friends, the people who knew me and loved me for who I was.
One's experience with a book is colored by one's experiences in life. When I read The Catcher in the Rye, I have to suppose I was in a very different place than the kids who found it meaningful. For that reason, I don't think the fact that it left me cold makes me an ignoramus, any more than it makes J. D. Salinger any less of a great author.