When it comes to the YA, comparisons to Catcher in the Rye are pretty common. Whether or not they make sense is another story*. This is one of the few cases in which it does.
I'm not saying that this book is trying to be Catcher or that James Sveck is a clone of Holden Caufield -- nothing like that. But Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You captures the confusion and the angst, the feeling of knowing it all and the feeling of knowing nothing that so many of us felt when we were eighteen. Reading this as an adult, I found that James, like Holden, is someone who I'd want to both comfort and strangle, probably at the same time.** If I'd read it as a teen, I would have found much to identify with.
Reading it hurt. It hurt because I was so immediately involved in James' life, his voice and his story that I felt his pain and confusion, because I remember so clearly my own version of that pain and confusion, and because I was all too aware of how soon it would be over. All that hurt and I didn't want it to end.
It's fitting that two*** major moments in the story involve the theater -- there's something about the dialogue that made me imagine a dramatic adaptation. It's very spare, but snappy and rhythmic and just... I just loved it.
It's one that I know I'll go back to, and soon. Not just to re-read the passages I marked, but to re-read the entire thing. I'm glad to see that it's being cross-marketed to both teen and adult audiences. I think it'll do well in both.
*The most recent big one being a blurb by Alexander McCall Smith on the cover of Spud. While Spud was an entertaining, funny and enjoyable book, the only thing it really had in common with Catcher in the Rye was a male teen protagonist. I say again, it would've made a lot more sense if he'd called it "South Africa's Adrian Mole!" Less people would know the reference, maybe, but it would be more accurate. Yes, yes, I know. Let it go, Leila. Just let it go. Okay. Moving on.
**An true-to-life extremely bright eighteen-year-old, in other words.
***Actually, three if you count the scene with James' mother's new (soon-to-be-ex) husband.