Friday, July 13, 2012

Palmer's Picks: Review of Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You: A Novel

Hi guys! My name's Palmer, and I work in the Young Adult Services department of the Charleston County Public Library. I love graphic novels, root beer floats and thunderstorms (and flip glasses). I also love finding truly awesome books and sharing them with you avid readers! Remember to click on any title to put it on hold.

The facepalm that graces the cover of Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You speaks more precisely of the plight of our hero, a socially and intellectually frustrated high school senior named James Sveck, than any other illustration I can imagine. James's life seems to encompass everything a facepalm stands for—frustration, humiliation or, to borrow a definition from Urban Dictionary, "The only logical answer to a stupid question or statement."

James, as a highly intelligent but slightly socially awkward teen, finds himself at odds with the world at every turn. He can't identify with other teens his age, his self-described "shark" businessman father, his thrice-divorced mother, or his snobby sister. A botched attempt to establish a connection with the one person he can identify with (other than his grandmother) lands him in hot water, with his sanity and sexuality being questioned by both his family and the new therapist they've enlisted to help wheedle out of James exactly why he doesn't want to go to college.

James's battle to preserve himself and his privacy against all odds, while second-guessing his own motives, is as realistic as it is cringe-worthy. We've all faced people and points in our lives that make us want to box up in our rooms or head for the hills. James does both but with more finesse than the average bear, fighting his inquisitors with silence and artful evasion while searching online for lovely old homes in the far-off Midwest or abandoning an embarrassment of a school trip to Washington, D.C., for a decent hotel and solo time at the National Gallery.

James is an odd kind of anti-hero, and that's what I like about him.

Peering out of James's shell, Peter Cameron possesses a wonderful double-sided ability to observe the absurdity in everyday life with subtle humor and to pinpoint small moments of beauty with remarkable gravity. This is also a great New York City book—despite James's desire to own a home in the Midwest, he relishes the city's spaces and describes them to us so that we feel his solitude, and his comfort in that solitude.

Should you pick up Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You, you will discover a funny and bittersweet tale of identity and awkwardness. And you too, like James, will understand how profound a facepalm can be.

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