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Terrible Reviews of Great Books: The Catcher in the Rye

one star reviews

There is no such thing as a universally loved book. Each month, we’ll feature a book from Time’s list of the best 100 English language novels of all time. From the nasty to the snarky to the downright absurd, we’ll highlight some of the strange reasons why some people hate these great reads. This month we’ll be taking a look at reviews for The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger


The Catcher in the Rye was first published in 1951 and it is considered to be a defining novel of teenage angst and alienation. By 1981, it became the most taught book in the United States (per The Guardian). In addition to making Time’s 100 list, it also is on Boxell’s 1001 Books you Must Read Before You Die. It has 4,419 reviews on Amazon with an average star rating of 4.0. Unlike our first three books, it broke double digits for negative reviews with 10% being 1 star. The higher percentage of negative reviews isn’t surprising considering that Catcher has always been controversial. I personally loved it when I read it in school but let’s take a look at a sampling of one star reviews (my comments in blue):

NOTE: I did not edit for grammar or spelling. All reviews were copied exactly as posted on Amazon. You can read all 1-star reviews here.

  1. This book is pathetic. Many people called it a “classic.” It’s the book that killed John Lennon. Oswald had a copy. So I thought “What the heck?” (I too pick my books based on what killers are reading). I then embarked on four hours of my life spent reading this complete testacle sack of a book; four hours I will never get back, I might add.
  2. Please, please, don’t let your child or teenager read this book. If you’re the teacher who suggested our teenage daughter read this, while she was in high school…shame on you! No teacher should suggest this book to a child!
  3. I am very open minded when it comes to literature (I even read through Mein Kampf without any objection (really? no objection to Mein Kampf?) but I just hated this book! If it wasn’t required reading, I would have stopped on the fourth page! I think Salinger could have done much better (like Hitler)!
  4.  People tell me that maybe I don’t identify with the character, can’t recognize his struggles or what he is going through. I think part of the reason I didn’t like this book is because I can identify with all of those things and can see Holdens’ point of view better than he can. All of these adults who say that this is such a great book probably do so because they have forgotten what teen-angst feels like, or never even felt it in the first place and want to pretend they have. I have never met a teenager that has liked this book. The teachers, adults, and librarians will rave on and on about it, but only because they have forgotten a part of themselves in adulthood. By the way if you liked this book, or didn’t, but took the time to read it, something tells me that you will love Joseph Heller’s, CATCH-22. I did love Catch-22
  5. I’m not the kind of person who reads a lot of books and this book is a reason why. First the story is not interesting and also the way it’s told is very stupid.
  6. If you’ve enjoyed John Green novels this doesn’t compare, don’t trust the reviews even this one, make up your own mind, but don’t read it if you’re looking to feel good or really enjoyed John Green. I found this book highly over rated and do not understand the fuss that it created and I read it BEFORE John Green. I wonder if this person likes John Green?
  7.  I didn’t like it because the style Salinger used began to work on my nerves after a while. The language Holden uses is recognizabel from TV and rap music because he swears a lot. In the beginning this was quite amuzing but it irritated me in the end. Salinger totally ripped off the top rappers of 1951.
  8. I recall nothing of my youth that even resembled this. Nor anyone I knew resembled this. To me, this book is pretty much some 60 year old lady’s view of what she’d have thougth a teenage boy’s life was like. Anyway, what a waste of my time forcing this down much like having to eat brussel sprouts as a kid (as a matter of fact that’s closer to most kid’s youth than this book).
  9. Terrible Terrible book. Any criteria that dictates this book as a “classic” and a work of fiction was obviously invented by someone on a daily dose of LSD. So it’s non-fiction?
  10. In a word, this book is pointless (or four words). I may seem like a mindless critic that hates everything, but i rarely dislike a book. I will give it one thing…it interested me, and kept me reading, but it never really got anywhere. The catcher in the rye taught me one thing: if you put seventeen cuss words on one page, your novel can be “a supreme masterpiece” too!
  11. I read it during a three-week exercise in the Arizona dessert during my tour of service in the Marine Corps. Being that I was in the dessert my options were a) continue reading this book or b) play with dirt. Thirteen pages from the end I chose option b. And I am not a dirt enthusiast. To the author’s credit I’ve never loathed a written word or envied the illiterate as much as I did when I read this book. Maybe that’s worth something. Just not to me.
  12. One reason I hated it was because we were forced to read this by our evil teacher. I would never read such crap, if I hadn’t to.
  13. I know this was controversial in its time, but I dont think anyone thought it was particularly subversive or thought provoking. I think they just had something against crumby fiction with excessive and meaningless profanity. If Santa leaves this lump of coal for you, shoot that fat bastard!
  14. Fourth grade grammar lesson follows:
    Slainger writes, “Ackley was one of those crazy guys that ignored you.” Wrong! “Ackley was one of those crazy guys WHO ignored you.” Before IM acronyms and text messaging set out youth down the path of poor writing, there was Catcher In the Rye doing the same thing. It’s as artistic as a bag of cat litter. The perils of teenage protagonists writing in first person.
  15. I’m a book critic, and this was the worst book I’ve ever read, and I’m a book junkie. What’s with the double negatives? The plot lacked an awful lot. The whole book was a waste of my time and money. I wish someone had warned me about it before I purchased it. My old journals make better reading than this novel, and that’s not saying much. If you hear me, skip this one! SNOOZE! Note to self: Another book critic whose brilliantly insightful reviews I must follow. Michiko Kakutani has nothing on this person.

Have you read The Catcher in the Rye? Was it a 1-star read for you?

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Book Worm #

    Jen I love your comments I am glad I am home alone else I would have to explain why I am giggling away to myself.

    I think this was probably a 3 star read for me but it’s so long ago I read it that I can’t really remember, that said I loved Catch 22 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    January 29, 2016
  2. mootastic1 #

    This is hysterical. And I know now that I will just love Catch-22.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 29, 2016
  3. This was the must read book when I was in school but generally the attention was on one page which featured the topic high on our adolescent minds ( sex). Hardly anyone read the whole book though. I did and found it dreary and overblown. So yes I would have given it a one star

    Liked by 1 person

    January 30, 2016
  4. Great commentary in blue, lol! #11 was my favorite critique.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 30, 2016
  5. JoLene R #

    Agree with Anita — #11 was particularly amusing as was your commentary Jen. I did read this in high school and I remember that I didn’t particularly care for it. I think it was a 2 star read for me. I think that I remember that more of the boys liked it in class than girls though now I remember nothing of the plot.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 30, 2016
  6. hilarious


    February 13, 2016
  7. Durwood #

    The book is an abortion


    August 10, 2020

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. One-Star Reviews of The Catcher in the Rye | Calliope Writing
  2. Terrible Reviews of Great Books: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe | The Reader's Room
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  4. Terrible Reviews of Great Books: Animal Farm by George Orwell | The Reader's Room
  5. Terrible Reviews of Great Books: Catch-22 by Heller | The Reader's Room
  6. Terrible Reviews of Great Books: The Grapes of Wrath | The Reader's Room
  7. Terrible Reviews of Great Books: Gone with the Wind | The Reader's Room

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