Ah, The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger’s magnum opus. A pilgrimage of teenage angst, alienation, and a profound dislike for “phonies.” Now, take that existential dread and give Holden Caulfield a wooden stake and some garlic. What do you get? A bloody good story where Holden doesn’t just catch innocent kids from falling off a cliff; he’s also saving them from becoming a vampire’s Happy Meal.
First, let’s talk about the angsty heroes we have in the vampire-slaying business. Twilight‘s Bella Swan was too enamored with her sparkly, bloodsucking Romeo to be worried about teen angst. But Holden Caulfield wouldn’t put up with that shimmery nonsense. He’d stake Edward Cullen faster than you can say, “unreliable narrator.”
Holden wouldn’t be swayed by the glamour of vampiric life. He’d hate the concept of living forever, trapped in an eternal loop of teenage brooding. Heck, he can barely handle a couple days in New York City before melting down. Immortal bloodsuckers who think they’ve got the world figured out would be the ultimate “phonies” in his book. And let’s face it, if Holden can’t stand a prep school full of them, he’s going to be highly motivated to clear the world of vampire snobs.
But we can’t talk about Holden as a vampire slayer without mentioning Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon’s epic saga may focus on Buffy Summers, a teenage girl juggling school life and a nightlife that involves high kicks and vampire staking, but she’s a far cry from Holden. She may be a bit cynical, but Buffy never loses her sense of purpose or her friends. Holden, on the other hand, would be the reluctant hero, the slayer who gripes about his destiny but takes it on because the alternative is far worse.
The brooding anti-hero isn’t a new concept in young adult fiction, but most carry a sense of moral clarity underneath it all. Take Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows. This guy might be a ruthless criminal prodigy, but he’s got rules, lines he won’t cross. Holden would connect with Kaz on a “life is garbage but let’s do the job” level.
Holden as a vampire slayer would also differ in his relationships with other characters. Imagine him interacting with Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. Where Hermione thrives on rules and logic, Holden despises structure. He’d listen to her go on about the right way to slay a vampire and probably chuck his stake into the bushes, mumbling, “All that David Copperfield kind of crap.”
His weapon of choice? Sarcasm. Holden would probably have witty exchanges with the vampires before getting down to the slaying part. In Serpent & Dove, we’ve got Reid Diggory, a witch hunter with strict moral codes. Now, Holden would laugh at the idea of “codes.” Yet, his ultimate aim would still align with Reid’s—protect the innocent.
Finally, Holden’s relationship with immortality would be fascinating. Most YA fantasy like Children of Blood and Bone or A Court of Thorns and Roses deal with the allure of immortality as a gift or curse. For Holden, who can’t even stand the ephemeral nature of youth, the idea would be repugnant.
Holden Caulfield in the world of fangs and stakes wouldn’t just be a quirky twist on a classic; it would be a critique on the entire vampire-slaying, young adult, fantasy-imbued universe. Just like in his original story, he’d question the norms, challenge the accepted truths, and in the end, save the day in the most begrudging way possible. Because let’s face it: if you have to have someone to save your neck, it might as well be someone who questions why it needs saving in the first place.