Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You

4.2 49
by Peter Cameron, Lincoln Hoppe

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Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You is the story of James Sveck, a sophisticated, vulnerable young man with a deep appreciation for the world and no idea how to live in it. James is eighteen, the child of divorced parents living in Manhattan. Articulate, sensitive, and cynical, he rejects all of the assumptions that govern the adult world around


Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You is the story of James Sveck, a sophisticated, vulnerable young man with a deep appreciation for the world and no idea how to live in it. James is eighteen, the child of divorced parents living in Manhattan. Articulate, sensitive, and cynical, he rejects all of the assumptions that govern the adult world around him–including the expectation that he will go to college in the fall. He would prefer to move to an old house in a small town somewhere in the Midwest. Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You takes place over a few broiling days in the summer of 2003 as James confides in his sympathetic grandmother, stymies his canny therapist, deplores his pretentious sister, and devises a fake online identity in order to pursue his crush on a much older coworker. Nothing turns out how he'd expected.

"Possibly one of the all-time great New York books, not to mention an archly comic gem" (Peter Gadol, LA Weekly), Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You is the insightful, powerfully moving story of a young man questioning his times, his family, his world, and himself.

Editorial Reviews

David Lipsky
…his best work—it's terrific, piercing and funny. The novel demonstrates every kind of strength. He offers dry-ice observations ("My grandmother is a firm believer in proper deportment; it is the closest she comes to any sort of religion"), memorable weather ("The sky went dark in a weird green swampy way that gave me a creepy end-of-the-world feeling"), and emotions I didn't believe had descriptions ("I ... just let everything go, turned the net of myself inside out and let all the worried desperate fish swim away"). It's as if Cameron had taken the tools earned over a whole career and applied them to the materials of a first book.
—The New York Times
Children's Literature - Joella Peterson
James Sveck does not like the idea of starting at Brown in the fall, and he especially does not like the idea of interacting with people his own age. While he works for his mother at her art gallery the summer between his senior year of high school and first year of college, he looks at old houses for sale in the Midwest in hopes of abandoning the whole college idea his parents are so set upon. James yearns for a simple life where he can just skip over the painful social agony of dealing with (even just talking to) people he does not want to deal with (which is almost everyone). James does not like talking, but Cameron's book shows the inner workings of James' mind and the daily teen angst he deals with. The rich characterization connects readers to James and his struggle to figure out just who he is and what he wants. This brilliant story is perfect for teens who struggle to find themselves—or even just the words to express what they want to say. Reviewer: Joella Peterson
VOYA - Teri S. Lesesne
James Sveck has it all, or so it seems to his family. He is eighteen, accepted into Brown University for the fall, and has a summer job working at his mother's art gallery. From James's point of view, however, life is not so idyllic. His summer job is a joke because hardly anyone ventures into the gallery-instead he has to appear busy and interested. Ditto the prospect of college: James is not certain that he even wants to attend school, uncertain as to why would he want to spend time with people his own age. On the surface, James appears to be just another disaffected product of a privileged life. Readers will discover, however, that there is more to James than his professed disinterest. Profoundly affected by the events of September 11 and his parents' divorce, James coats his wounds and focuses instead on precision in language from his parents and his peers. What saves this novel from becoming yet another story of a rich teen who is bored by his own life is the slow unfolding of the events that have colored James's outlook on life. 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 at first. James, forced to become more introspective and to seriously consider why he is so dissatisfied with his life, comes to understand that same lesson and to learn that he can not only survive but also rise above his challenges.
School Library Journal

Gr 10 Up

Peter Cameron has crafted a sharp, biting tale (Farrar, 2007) that deservedly has been compared to J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye . The translation to audiobook format is just short of brilliant. Eighteen-year-old James Sveck lives with his upper-crust family in New York City and is ambivalent about many things: his Ivy League future at Brown, his sexual orientation, his dislike of kids his own age. The people in James' life include an artsy mother who came home from her honeymoon alone, a pretentious sister, his smart and funny grandmother, and his co-worker at his mother's art gallery. James meanders through the summer sharing his observations of the world around him. Alarmed at his insistence that he has no use for college, his parents force him into therapy. When James turns inward to examine his ambivalence, the story takes a serious turn. The divorce of his parents left scars and his high school was close to ground zero on September 11th. Narrator Lincoln Hoppe perfectly captures James' wit, sarcasm, pain. The ending is rather abrupt and we never fully understand James' motivations, but this won't be problematic for listeners. With strong language and mature themes, this is a story for older teens.-Tricia Melgaard, Centennial Middle School, Broken Arrow, OK

Kirkus Reviews
Cameron's meticulously voiced novel begins as a comedy of manners, wittily disarticulating a certain class of New Yorker, so it takes the reader awhile to catch onto the fact that it's actually a story about the psychological pain that comes from loneliness and the difficulty in making emotional connections. The virtuoso first-person narrative is related by the protagonist, James Sveck, an 18-year-old boy who is as smart as he is alienated. Hiding his fears behind a curtain of disinterested contempt, James, who is gay but unwilling to either discuss or test it, likes only two people in his life, his wise and accepting grandmother and the man who manages his mother's art gallery. In the course of the story, James comes to realize that he can't wall himself off forever, finally making a maladroit and unsuccessful attempt to reach out. 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. (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher

“His best work--it's terrific, piercing, and funny. The novel demonstrates every kind of strength.” —David Lipsky, The New York Times Book Review

“James Sveck is a brilliant wit of a character whose voice will echo long after his story ends.” —Kristin Kloberdanz, Chicago Tribune

“Deliciously vital right from the start . . . a piece of vocal virtuosity and possibly Cameron's best book . . . It is a bravura performance, and Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You is a stunning little book. ” —Lorrie Moore, The New York Review of Books

“Cameron's prose handily marries the tangled logic of adolescence to simple, beautiful language.” —Peter Terzian, Newsday

“Beautifully conceived and written . . . funny, sad, tender, and sophisticated.” —Michael Cart, Booklist

Product Details

Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
Age Range:
15 Years

Read an Excerpt

From Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You

We sat for a moment in silence, and then the waiter delivered our meals. My father glanced at my plate of pasta, but said nothing. He cut into his nearly raw beef and smiled at the blood it drooled. "So," he said, after he had taken a bite, "you're not going to tell me."

"Not going to tell you what?"

"Whether or not you're gay."

"No," I said. "Why should I? Did you tell your parents?"

"I wasn't gay," said my father. "I was straight."

"So, what, if you're gay you have a moral obligation to inform your parents and if you're straight you don't?"

"James, I'm just trying to be helpful. I'm just trying to be a good father. You don't have to get hostile. I just thought you might be gay, and if you were, I wanted to let you know that's fine, and help you in whatever way I could."

"Why might you think I was gay?"

"I don't know. You just seem - well, let's put it this way: you don't seem interested in girls. You're eighteen, and as far as I know you've never been on a date."

I said nothing.

"Am I wrong? Or is that true?"

"Just because I've never been on a date doesn't mean I'm gay. And besides, no one goes on dates anymore."

"Well, whatever - normal kids hang out. They go out."

Meet the Author

PETER CAMERON is the author of several novels, including Andorra and The Weekend. He lives in New York City.

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Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book becuase I had read the Catcher and the Rye and thought it was great. The main character, James is exactly like a modern day Holden Caufeild. He has the same, screw life everyones an ass additude. I enjoyed this novel and I think anyone who like The catcher and the Rye would too.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
James is quite different then the usual withdrawn teen characters in many books, his elegant speech and reasoning will take you by suprise. I love how even though his sexuality comes up, it does not overshadow the main story which is that of a boy looking for his place in the world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a great one. Get it off the list of gay books, it is nothing that really has to do with that. The only reason it is on there to begin with is because the main character happens to be gay (not that it matters because we hear about this characteristic only a couple times). I think that James Sveck (the main character) is very interesting and inspiring. He has such a different way of looking at things, that makes this book interesting in itself. And although some things said are somewhat cliche, you get a good laugh as well as many more emotions out of this book. I finished it very quickly and it was well worth the read. Don't judge it by the cover or the name, its very unique and endearing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this novel well written. The many anecdotes of the narrator's explanation of things made this novel flow smoothly without the common 'rush' as people may find in other novels. This book was very motivational and made me think a lot about things I've never even thought to think of before.
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This is such an amazing touching book! Must readd!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A novel that truly reached out and struck me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable. Great, relatable read.
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Blakebury More than 1 year ago
This coming of age tale was a quick, witty read. The protagonist is both likable and relatable and truly reminded me of what it was like to be a young, confused gay teen struggling to deal with life choices without focusing on the aspect of sexuality. A great reminder that dealing with sexuality doesn't necessarily meaning focusing on it, but instead can be but a thread within the fiber of growing up. Recommended for a light and quick read that will surely make you smile and even laugh out loud from time to time. _Blakebury
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queenb4ever More than 1 year ago
I would recommend this book to anyone who is very analytical and mature. This could be for a 15 yr old to a 45 yr old. I enjoy this book and suggest that you read it.