I have not read all the reviews listed here, and so my comments may be redundant, but I feel that most of the customer reviewers have missed the mark. This book is a brilliant study (probably quasi-autobiographical from what I know of J.D. Salinger's life) of a teenage boy who suffers from severe depression, and barely hangs on through his odyssey from the time he leaves school until he is rescued by his younger sister. There are clear parallels between this book and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, except that she found nothing to anchor her to life. As he travels along, Holden tempts fate on a number of occasions, any one of which could have resulted in his death or serious injury- a vulnerable teenage boy staying in a flophouse of a hotel, engaging a prostitute and taking on her pimp, walking through Central Park after dark, and generally roaming around a usually unforgiving city. His salvation is his sister, who is the only one who can cut through his cynicism, and self-destructiveness. She is truly the "catcher in the rye," standing at the edge of the cliff, guardian and protector, keeping all the children from falling off the edge. In this case, she keeps her brother from the abyss, as he finally agrees to go home, and to not follow his fantasy to go out west, which I think is a metaphor for the great unknown, and probably his own ultimate destruction. Why he honors her so is not entirely clear, but it could be because she is truly pre-egoic; innocent, caring, displaying unconditional love and concern for Holden, and no facade that he can disparage with his cynicism and wit. The "epilogue" final chapter shows Holden acknowledging that he is in some institution, probably as a psychiatric inpatient, who is letting a psychotherapist into his world. He seems to have lost his severe cynical edge, and one gets the hint that he is going to make it, to recover from an illness which almost destroyed him. The novel leaves us on a hopeful note, although, interestingly enough, I dont get the impression that the author ever similarly extricated himself from the reclusive life which he has lived. All in all, I think that we bear witness to a brilliantly-crafted case study of adolescent depression, with all of the contrasting anguish and humorous cynicism expected in such a pathetic figure. The irony here, of course, is that the world and its inhabitants are indeed phony, and to cure Holden is to allow him to become everything he so incisively rails against. Do we do him- and any other beings who see the world for what it really is- a true service by trying to change them??