Last Friday, Jessica Roake over at Slate lamented the fall of Holden Caulfield in the esteem of modern teenagers — “The problem is that Catcher in the Rye is no longer a book for cool high school students,” she writes. “Catcher in the Rye is a book for cool high school teachers.” A host of factors have added to the books current lack of cool, the most important probably being its ubiquitousness on modern high school syllabi — how can something truly feel underground, transformative, if your teachers are assigning it?
“The perfect teenage book should feel like it’s being passed around secretly, its message too raw and powerful for adults to understand,” Roake explains. “It should inspire highlighting and ponderous margin notes that embarrass you 20 years later. Most of all, it should feel like it’s speaking directly to you, and only you, even if everyone else in your class is working on the same essay question.” We totally concur, and after the jump, we’ve put forward ten novels that we think might just have the chops to replace our beloved Catcher in our collective teenage imaginations. But then again, maybe nothing will ever replace it. Click through to check out our list, and if you don’t see your favorite, add and argue in the comments.
Black Swan Green, David Mitchell
Roake suggests Black Swan Green, the semi-autobiographical story of a sensitive young boy — stutterer, poet — growing up in England, and we agree wholeheartedly. Not only is this book impeccably written and rather moving (whether you’re a floundering teenager or no), but as former teenagers ourselves, we recognize that pretentious joy of drawling “Oh, David Mitchell? Yes, you’ve read Cloud Atlas, but how about Black Swan Green?” Taking in his entire oeuvre wouldn’t hurt them either.