James is eighteen. He’s been accepted to Brown University and he’s got the whole world in front of him. Except that he doesn’t want the whole world, and he certainly doesn’t want to go to Brown. James isn’t like other boys his age. He doesn’t fit in, or at least, he doesn’t want to fit in. He finds kids his own age annoying, shallow. The thought of sitting through four years of college with other kids his age is like a nightmare to him.
So what does a kid who is smart enough to have been accepted to Brown want to do with his life if not go to college? James wants to move to the Midwest. Buy a house and just get a regular old job. He wants a porch where he can read, sleep and be alone.
James’s parents don’t understand him, and his mother tells him this one more than one occasion. His father is a high flying business executive that has very little time for his parental responsibilities and James’s mother is a bit of an artsy fartsy hair brain that can’t hold down any kind permanent, stable relationships. James looks at his parents and wants the opposite of what they have.
This is one of those novels where not a lot happens, kind of like Seinfeld episode. It’s a novel about nothing but it’s completely unputdownable. James is a quirky character and from the beginning of the novel it’s clear that he’s an unhappy person. I was eager to discover the source of his unhappiness. Maybe this is why I kept reading so incessantly. I can’t say with certainty that the root of his problems is divulged, but I don’t think the reader is supposed to walk away with a sense of finality after reading this book.
Peter Cameron writes beautifully and his characters – even those that are deeply flawed – are intelligent and engaging. This is one of those rare highbrow real literary young adult novels and I recommend it to all. It’s not chick lit; there is no Edward Cullen found within its pages but it’s definitely worth your money and your time. Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You is one of those universal novels that will appeal to both male and female readers everywhere. Cameron is a supremely talented author and he will have you thinking about the deeper roots of humanity without even realising it.