Review: Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron

Sometimes when I get to a book that’s been on my to-be-read list forever, I shocked I waited so long; it’s that good. Sadly, this was not one of those books.Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You

Someday this Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron

Published: Published September 18th 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)/Macmillan

Source: local library

Synopsis (Goodread): 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.

My thoughts: This had been on my TBR list for ages when it came up on my weeding list. It hadn’t been checked out in two years. Since I’d heard great things and seen in compared to The Catcher in the Rye and Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I consider classics, I was surprised no one else had checked it out in so long. I decided to see if it was worth trying to promote on a booklist or display to see if it would check out. Since the main character fantasizes about moving to a farmhouse in Kansas, I thought it might have a certain appeal for Lawrence teens. Why would a kid living in a fancy house in NYC want to move to Kansas? I am not as ruthless of a weeder as I’d like to one day be, and I wanted to give this book a chance before pulling it from the shelves. The only solution was to read it myself.

I get why it’s compared to Salinger or Chobsky. Cameron does really capture teenage angst and self-loating and also those moments of clarity where you see the world so clearly that only seem to happen when you’re a teen. But a lot of the details were dated (do teens today know what a fax machine is?) and the historic, nostalgic aspect just wasn’t there, at least for me.

Some books will always be popular. Some books are good when they first come out, but don’t stand the test of time. This one didn’t seem like anything terribly special, and since patrons obviously weren’t interested, I ended up weeding it.

Don’t get me wrong. I like this book, and I think the right teen could enjoy this book, too. But I have other books I can hand them that will fulfill the same need, and if they really want this one, I can get it through inter-library loan.

James is a well-constructed character who feels very real, and the supporting cast are all idiosyncratic enough to keep the novel interesting. His story, however, feel of-a-moment, even fleeting, which is not what a young adult collection is about, at least at my public library.

Second opinions:

Crunchings and Munchings: “Cameron is a hell of a writer; the story is engaging and moving; the characters are funny, ridiculous, clueless, and sad. It’s a perfect slice of a teenager’s life, and James Sveck is a character that I think about often—indeed, he feels so real to me that I can imagine more and more books that follow him as he gets older.”


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