Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, by Peter Cameron
I was surprised when I returned to high school to substitute teach nearly forty years after I had been a student that the same books were being given to the students to read: Scarlet Letter, To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn, and Catcher in the Rye. Being required reading, the books weren’t any better appreciated than when I was a high school student. However, in my reading program of free choice reading, a student occasionally chooses to read Catcher in the Rye and proclaims it a favorite book. Students like to read about themselves, and the story of Holden Caulfield captures the discomfort of a young person annoyed with his peers and cynical about an unappealing adult world looming just ahead.
James Sveck, the narrator of author James Cameron’s Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, is a 2007 version of a young man facing the precipice of adulthood with more than an average dose of uneasiness. Not only are there cultural landmarks of today’s world in this book—the Twin Towers, an easing acceptance of homosexuality—but the voice of James Sveck captures a twenty-first century culture more at ease with itself. The inept adults are more bumbling than sinister, the protagonist’s anguish more tender than hostile.
Written for young adults and while not a challenging book to read for teenagers, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You will appeal the most to older teens and the more reflective and well-read of the younger teens. Though the protagonist is an eighteen-year-old young man, this book has so far been the most appreciated by my female students. Adults would enjoy reading this book also; our world seen through the eyes of a wisely observant adolescent serves as a worthy reminder of who we once were and what we once wanted.