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Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You: A Novel Hardcover – September 18, 2007

86 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Though he's been accepted by Brown University, 18-year-old James isn't sure he wants to go to college. What he really wants is to buy a nice house in a small town somewhere in the Midwest—Indiana, perhaps. In the meantime, however, he has a dull, make-work job at his thrice-married mother's Manhattan art gallery, where he finds himself attracted to her assistant, an older man named John. In a clumsy attempt to capture John's attention, James winds up accused of sexual harassment! A critically acclaimed author of adult fiction, Cameron makes a singularly auspicious entry into the world of YA with this beautifully conceived and written coming-of-age novel that is, at turns, funny, sad, tender, and sophisticated. James makes a memorable protagonist, touching in his inability to connect with the world but always entertaining in his first-person account of his New York environment, his fractured family, his disastrous trip to the nation's capital, and his ongoing bouts with psychoanalysis. In the process he dramatizes the ambivalences and uncertainties of adolescence in ways that both teen and adult readers will savor and remember. Cart, Michael


 “It’s his best work—it’s terrific, piercing and funny. The novel demonstrates every kind of strength.”—New York Times Book Review
"The dialogue pings...Cameron, a respected author of adult fiction, has written a spare, spacious, quietly dazzling book for teens and former teens."—Starred, The Horn Book
"Deliciously vital right from the start...Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You is a piece of vocal virtuosity and possibly Cameron's best book: it retains the lucid and unlabored prose of his previous ones but wastes less time; it may be his most successful novel on its own terms -- terms that are not as modest as they may initially seem...What Peter Cameron has done is written a sophisticated and adult book. Neither young adult literature, nor even really a coming-of-age story, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You is most surprisingly of all the subtlest September 11 novel yet written. So accomplished is its subtlety that one is not even aware of this novel's true subject until three quarters of the way through, and then its mention...rises up out of the story's barely submerged anxiety and casts on the book a sudden, brilliant light. It is a bravura performance, and Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You is a stunning little book."
New York Review of Books
"Pain brings pleasure when it delves into the poignancy of James’ isolation."
Entertainment Weekly
"James Sveck is a brilliant wit of a character whose voice will echo long after his story ends." —The Chicago Tribune
"Full of a longing yet often keenly humorous." —The Chicago Sun Times
"The book both fits within and smashes any number of literary molds: coming-of-age novel, New York novel, 9/11 novel. From the first sentence, you'll be snagged by its precocious, funny-sad narrator and his you'd-pay-to-hear-him-read-the-phone-book voice."—The Boston Globe
"Subtle and beautiful...will speak volumes to anyone still casting a backward glance toward the honest pain of youth."—Out Magazine
“. . . One of the all-time great New York books, not to mention an archly comic gem.” —LA Weekly
"With its off-balance marriage of the comedic and the deeply painful, its sympathetic embrace of its characters and its hard-won hope, this smart and elegantly written novel merits a wide readership."
— Starred, Publishers Weekly
"Cameron’s power is his ability to distill a particular world and social experience with great specificity while still allowing the reader to access the deep well of our shared humanity."—Starred, Kirkus Reviews
“A critically acclaimed author of adult fiction, Cameron makes a singularly auspicious entry into the world of YA with this beautifully conceived and written coming of age novel that is, at turns, funny, sad, tender, and sophisticated.”—Starred, Booklist
"Those experiencing the heady rush of that first gloom of youth will articulate philosophical guide."—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"The irony and wit Cameron's characters exchange is truly refreshing and had my teens, at least, cackling with appreciation."—Toronto Star
"[James'] highly cultured, dryly funny voice, which seduces the reader from the first page on, makes Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You appealing to adult readers as well." —Newsday
"Cameron is never rushed in the narrative, taking his time to show readers that sometimes the events of one's life can take a toll that is difficult to see."—VOYA
"The lead character of Peter Cameron's blisteringly funny and touching a Holden Caulfield for the 21st century."—Zink Magazine
"Beautifully written...James is the type of narrator you want to both shake and hug."—LAMDA Book Report
"Cameron's prose is sometimes laugh-out-loud...likely to appeal to teens going through a lot of the same problems." —The Newark Star-Ledger

"Not since The Catcher in the Rye has a novel captured the deep and almost physical ache of adolescent existential sadness as trenchantly as the perfectly titled Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You. You don’t have to be eighteen to relate to James Dunfour Sveck and his sense of alienation from a world he doesn’t understand, nor to be profoundly moved by his story. Told with compassion, insight, humor, and hope, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You deserves to be read by readers of all ages for years to come. I would have loved it as a teenager, and I love it now." —James Howe, author of The Misfits

"As I drew near the end of Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, I read more and more slowly because I didn’t want to leave James. With his devotion to precise English, his dislike of most other people—especially those his own age—and his adoration of his grandmother and old houses, James is the ideal antihero and companion. And, most important of all, he never utters a dull sentence. This is a riveting, suspenseful, witty, and very funny novel." —Margot Livesey, author of Banishing Verona

"Peter Cameron is one of my favorite writers, and this is one of his best books, a shrewd, funny, and at times painful story about the difficulty of becoming an adult. James is a wonderful narrator—brilliant and witty, remarkably observant, and just a little infuriating. His voice is so irresistible you’ll hate to put the book down."
  —Stephen McCauley, author of Alternatives to Sex

"The effect that comes from reading this comedic and beautiful novel is one that I particularly love and only happens with certain books—this feeling that you madly adore the narrator, that you’ve made this new intimate friend, and that for a little while (the duration of the book, at least) you’re a little bit less alone in the world."
 —Jonathan Ames, author of Wake Up, Sir! and The Extra Man
"You would think the world has had enough angsty teen books, but to be exact, the world's just been waiting for the messiah of teen angst. And now, the wait is over. The book that actually reads your mind is HERE." —A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader
"Terrific, well woth passing on to teens." —IRA
"Astonishing." —A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader

See all Editorial Reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 229 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); First Edition edition (September 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374309892
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374309893
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #190,328 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Foster Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In Peter Cameron's new novel eighteen-year-old James Sveck is on the brink of adulthood and frightened silly. And why wouldn't he be? His mother at 53 has just married her third husband and left him after a few days of a honeymoon in Las Vegas when he "borrowed" her credit cards and ran up a bill by slipping away from her bed and paying to be entertained by lap dancers. His father left his mother for a younger woman who died of cancer before he could marry her. His sarcastic-riddled sister Gillian opines that to mispronounce a child's name-- as she claims her parents have always done to her-- amounts to child abuse. James is brilliant, loves Anthony Trollope, despises for the most part people his own age, has never had either a boyfriend or a girlfriend-- both his parents question his sexual orientation-- has been accepted by Brown Univerity but thinks he wants to buy real estate in the Midwest, Nebraska or maybe Kansas, and live alone. He likes essentially two people on earth John who works in his mother's art gallery, and his grandmother because he finds them both smart and funny.

Although the writing is uneven, parts of this short novel are quite funny, at other times very sad; and Mr. Cameron's paints beautifully through the eyes of James a picture of the babbittry of life in the U. S. at the beginning of the new century. By far the best part of the novel is the section when James, by writing a winning essay in high school, wins a trip to Washington, D. C., along with two other students from each state, for a week-long seminar, The American Classroom. There he rides a school bus for the first time, eats at a Red Lobster, an Olive Garden, stays in a TraveLodge and sleeps three to a room with one young man who has never heard of Tennessee Williams.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By R. Penola on June 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This deceptively slim novel has no significant bells and whistles, and its plot, what there is of it, is ordinary by any stretch of the imagination. But oh how it will take your breath away. This book has the sting of truth in every sentence, and I devoured it in less than 2 days - I read it with more gusto than anything I've read in the last few years. The writing is actually dazzling, and you will remember with an ache these delightfully dysfunctional people, so carefully rendered, so beautifully observed.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By D. S. Heersink on October 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What a wonderful coming-of-age novel in the Age of Cynicism. Cameron is in total control of his narrative and precociously cynical protagonist, with all the apt props that drive us into questioning everything.

The novel is crisply written, humorous throughout, adroitly crafted, endearing, while suitably alienated by all the phony characters who presumptively "got real and cool" and haven't.

This novel is one perfectly suited to its time and age. I wish such great stories were written 40 and 50 years ago, that could be enjoyed in high school, college, and maturity. Granted, Cameron's ability to capture the precocious cynicism only works in our present state of affairs, but no author has captured its intensity with sarcastic irony better.

One's empathy and/or identity flows with each defective character (with a mild smirk that we gay men tend to get, when others think they know us better than we already know ourselves -- until, of course, we trust experience to break those barriers). I especially enjoyed the young guy and grandmother's role in the novel's heuristics.

In a culture where everyone is born-again or in therapy for being lifeless and self-consciously dead, perhaps we'll discover it is the spirit that questions and doubts, who questions orthodoxy, rather than submits to a depraved civilization in therapy for loss of feeling and meaning, perhaps some of us are shamans -- if only for ourselves.

At least that was once, and may yet again, be the hope of youth -- to question things that jaded middle age seems content with. No idealism. Just a precocious kid with doubts about "their" way of the world.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on October 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
James Svek doesn't really fit in. He isn't interested in the same things as other eighteen-year-old guys, doesn't even like people his age, and even keeps his family at a distance.

Nobody could blame James for being detached from his family. His father is a bit self-absorbed and seems to feel obligated to spend the little time he does with James. James' mother owns an art gallery and has just returned early from her honeymoon. Her third marriage has ended almost as quickly as it began. And James' older sister, Gillian, is enmeshed in her own life, and an affair with a married professor. Even the family dog seems to feel superior to James. The only family member James admires is his grandmother who is supportive and understanding, even if she is a bit eccentric herself. The only other person that James admires is John, who works with him at his mother's gallery.

James is a contemplative young man whose views on the world around him aren't always congruent with popular opinion. He sees the world with a mix of ironic humor and disdain. Although he isn't an "angry" teenager, James has distanced himself from the people and things that surround him.

Now James' life is getting complicated. He has been accepted to Brown University but he has decided that he doesn't want to go to college. He would rather buy an old house in the Midwest and live in obscurity. His parents have sent him to a shrink, one who annoyingly answers every question with a question. He has just ruined what friendship he had with John. And why are his parents now asking him if he's gay?

SOMEDAY THIS PAIN WILL BE USEFUL TO YOU is a smart, funny story about the pain that comes with growing up and becoming your own person. James is a highly likeable character whose views on the world and himself are refreshing and insightful.

This is a book that is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who reads it.

Reviewed by: JodiG.
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