Name of Book: Catcher Caught
Author: Sarah Collins Honenberger
Publisher: Amazon Encore
Audience: High School and adult (age 15+)
Summary: Daniel, a high school student, has been diagnosed with a virulent form of leukemia. Even with chemotherapy, his doctors estimate he has only one year to live. But his overprotective parents don’t trust doctors and pull him out of school to treat him with alternative remedies. While Daniel sympathizes with his parents’ grief and helplessness over his disease, he begins to question people’s intentions and authority. He has read Catcher in the Rye and is inspired by Holden Caulfield’s questioning of authority. While searching for identity in the face of death, Daniel also deals with normal teenage issues (Does the new girl in town like him? How can he keep her interest when she is in school and surrounded by other guys who are interested in her?). As Daniel struggles to gain some control over his life and death, he takes a cue from Holden and runs off to New York City.
Literary Elements at work in the story: This book is told in first person point of view. It addresses questions that have no easy answers. Should Daniel have a say in his own life and the treatment he receives? What exactly is a minor’s right to receive treatment? What if the minor’s choice goes against his/her parents’ wishes? How far along the line of the rights of minors are you willing to go? How do your actions affect others, even if you are dying? The author has Daniel make frequent allusions to Catcher in the Rye. However, adequate explanations smooth the way for readers who have not read Salinger’s classic (or have not read it in a long time!) so that the thread of the story is not lost.
Perspective on gender/race/culture/economic/ability: While gender, race, culture, economic status, and ability are not factors in this book, the author does present a perspective on age. Because Daniel is 15, he is not consulted about the treatment of his leukemia. He is not consulted about a trip to Mexico where he undergoes an alternative medicine approach. He and his younger brother Nick make a macabre joke of the name of the herbalist from whom their mother seeks advice; the boys refer to her as Miss T. Undertaker. Finally realizing that the alternative medicine route is not working, Daniel takes matters into his own hands and runs away to New York City (ala Holden Caulfield) to ask for chemotherapy. Reference is made to legislation permitting minors age 13 and older who are fully informed about their choices to have a voice in the treatment of their disease.
Scripture: Exodus 20:12; Psalm 88:13; Psalm 121; Hebrews 2:14-15;
Theology: Responsibility,Facing death/dying, Healing , Family
Faith Talk Questions:
- Daniel wonders: “Why do grown-ups always think what kids feel is fluff and can’t possibly be significant?” (p. 21) How would you answer him?
- To what extent should a teenager have a voice in the course of treatment sought/followed when the teenager has a serious illness? Explain your opinion. What might prevent or encourage the seriously ill teenager to speak up regarding a course of treatment? If there is disagreement, how much weight should be given to the opinions of the parents, the seriously ill teenager, and the doctors?
- How will the enjoyment and understanding of this book be affected if the reader has not first read Catcher in the Rye?
- Why does Daniel admire Holden Caulfield? What fictional characters do you admire? Why? How has the admired character affected your actions or beliefs? For example, the three-year-old who jumps off the roof so that he can fly like Superman. (For adults) How have the admired fictional characters changed over the course of your life?
- How do Nick and Meredith act as lifelines for Daniel?
- Daniel says “If they (his parents) act normal at least part of the time, it takes a lot of pressure off me.” What does he mean? How can parents “act normal” in the face of a seriously ill/dying child?
- Daniel’s family is not conventionally religious. From what sources do they draw strength? From what sources do you draw strength in times of crisis?
- What is “family”? How does Daniel’s definition of family change over the course of this book?
- Other discussion questions appear at the end of this book.
Review prepared by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Mary Anne Welch
Catcher Caught by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.