Waymon Hudson

Book Review: Someday this Pain will be useful to you

Filed By Waymon Hudson | August 09, 2008 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Entertainment, Entertainment, Living
Tags: book review, LGBT youth, Peter Cameron, Someday this pain will be useful to you

"Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you." - ovid

Someday book.pngSomeday this Pain will be useful to you by Peter Cameron is the engaging tale of 18 year-old James Sveck- a precocious, confused, loner in New York on the verge of leaving for college. Though it is billed as "Young Adult Fiction", this sometimes dark, sometimes humorous book is a great read at any age. The lead's everyday life seems meaningless and depressing, as does the future before him. Surrounded by an odd cast of family members, acquaintances, and his therapist, James is in that awkward part of young adulthood that we can all relate to.

Sveck could easily be seen as an unsympathetic character at first glance--a sad little city boy from a well-off family. But the author manages to paint him as a sensitive outsider and oddball. The journey of Sveck dealing with discoveries of his sexuality and traumas are quite compelling and keep you reading, as does the character's dry wit and sharp intelligence.

I found this book imminently readable, maybe because I saw myself in the main character- which is surprising in itself. If I could relate to Sveck (and I am someone who was raised on a farm from a rather poor family) and the awkwardness and life of the character, than anyone can. The way he doesn't fit in with peers his age, prefers adult company (if any), and would rather read than speak to anyone is a journey many of us went through as young queer folks.

The book is a great look at the journey of many modern gay teens. The character says it best:

I think that's what scares me: the randomness of everything. That the people who could be important to you might just pass you by. Or you pass them by. How do you know...I felt that by walking away I was abandoning [them], that I spent my entire life, day after day, abandoning people.

It was easy to relate to the character struggling to find his way on the verge of one of the biggest changes in life. While the book deals with serious issues- like depression, sexuality, and the growing pains of being on the edge of adulthood- it never falls into the realm of tortured, well-worn "self-discovery" that many books dealing with LGBT youth do. In fact, it was refreshing that there was no physical sexuality at all in the book. It is simply the tale of one person finding who they are and where they fit in the world.

All-in-all, the book was an interesting read that kept me engaged the entire time. It was humorous, smart, and piercing. The author tells a subtle tale of self-discovery and acceptance. It is a very internal struggle and journey that we should feel lucky to get to look into.

Overall Rating: B

And for suggestions from our readers, you can check out the great open thread "What was the last good book you read"...


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I read the book, not bad. Besides its characterization problems (a teenager at that age isn't even fully developed; his brain is still taking shape; his actions, reactions, and knowledge clearly push the envelope of verisimilitude) and stereotyping psychotherapy-- this irritates me to no end-- it's a nice time investment.

One large detractor for me was the inconclusive ending. It seems to be the trend, a trend which I feel cheats the reader ala The Giver.

For further reading, I would recommend the Common Sons series. I found it largely enjoyable.

I'll have to check out that series, Lucrece!

I have also noticed the trend to leave endings open in novels lately. I agree it can leave you feeling cheated bit...

I hate it when books do that. One of my favorite authors has taken to doing that lately; I've taken to not reading her books anymore because of it.