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Inspired by J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, (and the fact that today’s younger readers aren’t as inspired by it), Sarah Collins Honenberger gives us a compelling book about Daniel Solstice Landon who wants to follow in Holden Caulfield’s footsteps. The heartrending thing about Daniel? He has cancer and doesn’t have long to live, particularly since his hippie parents don’t believe in standard cancer treatment. As the discussion questions at the end of the book highlight, what exactly is a minor’s right to receive treatment? Against his parents’ will? And while that might feel clear and justifiable, how far along that line of minors’ rights do we go? And how do your actions affect others, even if you’re dying? Fascinating issues, and all of them are raised here with snappy dialog and humor, as well as sobering seriousness. But I should let you hear from the author herself rather than me. --Kathryn Erskine
Erskine: Why did you write this book?
Honenberger: Headline stories about kids whose parents refuse to follow standard medical treatment fascinated me. It’s hard to contradict your parents, but the possibility of dying raises the stakes. Coupled with the typical immortality teenage boys feel. I wanted to explore that 16-year-old boy’s point of view in the face of a fatal illness, to see if I could find out what might change his mind about that automatic belief in his own invincibility.
Erskine: Who or what has been the greatest inspiration for your stories?
Honenberger: In my 30 years of family law practice, I saw lots of families in distress. The wide discrepancy between what each party in a crisis feels and sees is one of the biggest reasons for family conflicts. Writing out those crises can illuminate those divergent realities. Stories often help people"walk in someone else’s shoes."
Erskine: Why do you write for young people?
Honenberger: I didn’t set out to write for young people in Catcher, Caught, but when I heard that today’s teenagers weren’t connecting with Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye, I thought that was a tragic loss. Holden’s story, his sadness, was a crucial part of my youth, seeing how quickly someone could feel lost and disconnected. I hoped by letting Daniel tell his story that today’s teenagers might connect with Holden’s issues, his sense of fairness and generosity of spirit despite his being on the outside, and his failures. In the end, even with his confusion and depression, he defends a strong morality in his analysis of suicide, sex, relationships with his brothers and his sister, and in how he treats the other prep school boys.
Erskine: How do your ideas come to you?
Honenberger: Something I overhear or see on the side of the road. It’s a visual, usually, that starts me thinking, why was that woman yelling or why was that man wearing his wading boots.
Erskine: What’s an important "nugget" that you’d like readers to take away from your book?
Honenberger: Life is shorter than you think and you’ll get more out of every experience if you remember it’s about the experience, not about you.
A few months after doctors tell him he has only a year to live, a precocious 15-year-old from a small town in Virginia has an intense reaction to “The Catcher in the Rye.” Deriving inspiration from Salinger’s narrative, Daniel Landon questions peoples’ intentions and authority (asking himself, “What would Holden do?”), all while experiencing moments of pure pleasure (especially with his new girlfriend). Daniel makes bold choices in what he believes to be his final year, but also sympathizes with how his hippie parents have struggled with the news of his illness. Not “rule followers themselves,” they decide, without consulting Daniel, that he should forgo chemo and use herbal remedies instead. He does as he’s told and, as a result, is confined to their small houseboat most of the time, reading, doing homework, and pondering teenage stuff (“Parents should never discount the social pull of being physically present at school”) and non-teenage stuff (“I know she’s going to fall apart when I die because our sleeping together was the first time”). Despite the countless references to Holden and Catcher, the narrator’s engaging voice and his quirky family make this a poignant story for young adults and for adults who have forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager. --This text refers to the manuscript reviewed as a part of the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.See all Editorial Reviews
This isn't a good book. It's a college paper extended to 220 pages. Let's take a "Catcher in the Rye" and put it in the mind and words of a kid 50 years later. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Avid Reader
"The Catcher in the Rye" came out over half a lifetime ago. Since then it has been dissected, taken apart, examined, stitched up for banning, rallied back into educational... Read morePublished 5 months ago by J. GARRATT
This was a pretty good book. I think the author captured a teenage boy's voice pretty well and the story was engaging.Published 6 months ago by windberry
The premise of this story is to see the world from the eyes of a 16 year old who has just been diagnosed with stage 4 leukemia. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Michael Sholders
There is simply no better way to to say it. I will not spoil it any further. One gets the idea that this is coming of age story but it's more of a life book that acts as if... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Randy Word
Great book - wonderful,quirky characters and who can't love Daniel? The author succeeds in creating a super sad and hilarious book all rolled into one. Read morePublished 13 months ago by LeeAnn