I'm a sucker for those little 15 percent off stickers that Barnes and Noble cleverly sends out, and so last week I went to B&N and told myself I could buy Any Book I Wanted. Not a book that I thought I ought to want, but something that I thought I would actually like.
Naturally, I headed over to the Young Adult section where I found a book that had no business being in the YA section, but I'm glad it was: Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You by Peter Cameron. And the reason I picked it up is because Peter Cameron was my Creative Writing 101 professor at Oberlin.
I was a bit dubious when the back jacket described the protagonist as "Articulate, sensitive, and cynical," and "a sophisticated, vulnerable young man." I'm not a huge fan of the articulate, sensitive, cynical, sophisticated, vulnerable, young man Manhattanite school of writing; I never really cared for Catcher in the Rye.
But I loved this book, starting with the first sentence: "The day my sister, Gillian, decided to pronounce her name with a hard G was, coincidentally, the same day my mother returned, early and alone, from her honeymoon." It caught me right there.
Our sophisticated, vulnerable, sensitive, articulate hero is, in my opinion, a sweet kid and I liked him which made all the difference. And the book is funny and touching. My favorite line occurs when our hero is watching his grandmother sleeping and pondering various things that have gone awry for him. He reports that he "Just let everything go, turned the net of myself inside out and let all the worried desperate fish swim away." Isn't that lovely?
I can see why it's in the YA section; our hero is 18 and doesn't want to go to college. But it's not written to be a YA novel. It's just a flat-out novel, and it's wonderful. I highly recommend it.