The book's critical success was driven in part by the enthusiasm of reviewers. Burton Rascoe of the Chicago Tribune wrote that "it bears the impress, it seems to me, of genius. It is the only adequate study that we have had of the contemporary American in adolescence and young manhood." H. L. Mencken wrote that This Side of Paradise was the "best American novel that I have seen of late."
One reader who was not entirely pleased, however, was John Grier Hibben, the President of Princeton University: "I cannot bear to think that our young men are merely living four years in a country club and spending their lives wholly in a spirit of calculation and snobbishness".