It’s time for eighteen-year-old James Sveck to begin his freshman year at Brown. Instead, he’s surfing the real estate listings, searching for a sanctuary—a nice farmhouse in Kansas, perhaps. Although James lives in twenty-first-century Manhattan, he’s more at home in the faraway worlds of Eric Rohmer or Anthony Trollope—or his favorite writer, the obscure and tragic Denton Welch.
James’s sense of dislocation is exacerbated by his willfully self-absorbed parents, a disdainful sister, his Teutonically cryptic shrink, and an increasingly vague, D-list celebrity grandmother. Compounding matters is James’s growing infatuation with a handsome male colleague at the art gallery his mother owns, where James supposedly works at his summer job but where he actually plots his escape to the prairie.
In the tradition of The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Booklist has hailed Cameron as “one of the best writers about middle-class youth since Salinger”), Peter Cameron paints an indelible portrait of a teenage hero holding out for a better grownup world.
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You is a 2008 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year.
Characters: James was a very deep and troubled character, so naturally, I loved him. His views on life were cynical and pessimistic which made for some really interesting and poignant internal dialogue. His social awkwardness with those around him and the way his mind worked were fascinating to read about and it allowed you to see past his flaws (which were abundant) and really grow to care for him and his well being.
Originality: Like the blurb says above, this book is very much in a similar vein to The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower in that they all follow characters who are lost and troubled, and trying to figure out what life is and how exactly they fit into the world. I love books like these, so I say the more the merrier.
Plot: As far as plot goes, there isn’t really much of one. Now this would usually bug me, but with this type of story it didn’t. It reminds me of those indie movies that are completely character based and explore the inner thoughts and feelings of the protagonist without really doing much else. If like me, you find yourself liking James, then this won’t be a problem. He’s so endearing and complicated that you don’t really notice that the book lacks a strong plot.
Writing: The writing in this book is stellar. I think it was important in a novel like this that it was. It didn’t have an intricate plot or supernatural backdrop to hide behind, so the writing was immediately noticeable. In this case, for all the right reasons. It was very deep and introspective, yet still read easily and flowed well. It had some great lines in it, the kind that you remember and think about well after you’ve read the book itself. This was my first experience reading Cameron and it certainly won’t be my last.
David’s rating: While this book didn’t have the same impact on me that books it has been compared with had, it was still a very enjoyable read. I loved James’ voice and thought that Cameron did a perfect job of depicting someone who is at a stage in their life where nothing is certain and life seems like an indecipherable minefield of emotions and confusion. Four solid snitches.