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Letters About Literature National Winners 2010

National Winner, Level 2: Siori Koerner

Dear J.D. Salinger,

I would like to thank you for writing Catcher in the Rye. Where I'm from, people know me as the "weird girl" - I'm not into the latest trends in pop culture, and I'm not bubbly and air-headed; nor am I the dark, angsty teen aged disaster of the cultural norm. I'm different; therefore, I'm strange. I had always thought that I'd be the only one who was peculiar. The thought of being so unusual that it repelled people away from me crawled in the tiny crevices of my mind, sometimes overtaking my head until it threw me into short periods of muted sadness. I had always thought I was the only one who was like this, until I read your book.

From the very first words that were written on the pages, Holden had a certain familiarity about him. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, until I read further in the novel. When he vividly depicted Ackley's facial blemishes, when he described his classmates as "phony", and when he boasted how he was a natural liar; that's when I knew who he was: He was me! He might as well have been my rebellious twin brother with the things he thought, the words he spoke, and the actions he committed. Because of your book, I had not just found a friend I could relate to; I had found my new hero.

While I sank further and further into the deep, dark ocean of text that was Catcher in the Rye, I began to question myself. For example, although Holden describes everyone around him as superficial and fake, he constantly lies to all who talk to him and always thinks foul things while attempting to act like a respectful young man. Therefore, is he not superficial and fake as well? Also, what does that make me? I began to analyze my daily actions and the actions of others as well. I soon realized that it was not only those who were around me that were deceptive and "phony"...I was too. Catcher in the Rye was my wake-up call. It taught me that it's not just everyone around me who is fake: I'm fake too, and the people I talk to must think so as well.

Another lesson that Holden taught me was the lesson of conserving innocence. I'll never forget how he was talking about wanting to be "the catcher in the rye". As I read, I began to think of my little cousin who lives with unpleasant conditions that are quite extreme for a child to go through. When I read about Holden watching Phoebe riding the carousel, I began to wish that my cousin would keep her innocence instead of growing into one of the pig-headed adults that surround her and raise her. Holden's wish to protect the children opened my eyes to the horrors they must go through.

When I finally finished the book, I felt like I had just gotten off a roller coaster ride. My breath was shallow with excitement; my eyes still hungry for more. As I closed the back cover, I realized that your book had taught me so many life lessons that I would never learn in class. Was I suddenly then turned into a wise, sage-like young woman, accepted by my peers? Of course not - influential novel or not, I was, and will always be, the "weird girl". However, your novel taught me that life is going to be hard, and being different will help in learning many of its lessons.

Siori Koerner