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Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You ~ Peter Cameron

July 10, 2009

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Genre: Adult Fiction

Publisher: Picador USA

229 pages

ISBN: 9780312428167

When eighteen year old James Sveck announces that he will most likely be forgoing his upcoming entrance to Brown University to instead pursue a piece of land not yet purchased in the Midwest, his well heeled New York City family protests. His flighty, thrice married, thrice divorced mother is only interested to the point of insisting that he subscribe to the services of the family shrink. His Partner’s Club dinning father, voices repeatedly that he will be throwing his life away by shirking his academic responsibility. His older sister, halfway through Barnard and dating a married man, lectures him on his stupidity. His therapist, recommended by his mother, simply parrots the wishes of his family. His only solace is found in his feisty grandmother and an older coworker at his mother’s gallery.

Peter Cameron’s Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You is an elegantly crafted tribute to the ever-growing stack of quarter-life crisis accounts in American literature. While the theme is not new (the book has received some serious flack for drawing on the likes of Catcher In the Rye), it is far from a mundane, rehashed storyline. Written from a teen view but not necessarily the voice of teen aged America (in fact, James will tell you that his position is exactly the opposite) the book superbly articulates the fluidity and uncertainty affixed to coming of age.

I found myself cringing when I read other reviewers’ descriptions of James’s deep queries as “too adult”. I find that young adults are often far more elegant in their searching than we give them credit for, perhaps because of, not in spite of, their youth. As we age, much like the secondary adults in Cameron’s tale, we lose the ability to question, to act out, to rise above or sidestep authority.

While it is billed as a young adult novel, the story touches on points that are relevant throughout life making it accessible and agreeable to a wide reading audience. If more young adult literature followed Cameron’s lead, I think I would find myself a bigger fan of the genre. Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You may be small in size but its impact is nothing less than powerful and is one that should, without a doubt, make its way to your summer reading pile.

Thank you to Anna at Picador for sending a copy of this book.

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