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James Sveck, the 18-year-old protagonist of Cameron's (The City of Your Final Destination) first novel for young adults, is a precocious, lonely and confused Manhattanite who believes he would be happier buying a house in Kansas surrounded by a sleeping porch than entering Brown University as planned and being surrounded by his peers. "I don't like people in general and people my age in particular," he explains, demonstrating his obsessive concern with language, "and people my age are the ones who go to college.... I'm not a sociopath or a freak (although I don't suppose people who are sociopaths or freaks self-identify as such); I just don't enjoy being with people." He claims people "rarely say anything interesting to each other," but his own observations are fresh and incisive as he reports on his exchanges at home and at work. As the novel opens, in July 2003, James's cynical older sister is having an affair with a married professor of language theory; his mother ditches her third husband on their Las Vegas honeymoon after he steals her credit cards to gamble; his high-powered father asks if he's gay; and James is stuck working at his mother's art gallery, which has mounted an exhibit by an artist with no name, of garbage cans decoupaged with pages torn out of the Bible, Koran and Torah. James's elaborate daily entries interlace with a series of flashbacks to gradually reveal the recent panic attack that has landed him in psychotherapy. Descriptions of these sessions offer not only more fodder for James's sardonic critiques of a self-indulgent society, but also an achingly tender portrait of a devastatingly alienated young man. A single reference yields something of an explanation: James saw, at close range, the planes crash into the Twin Towers. The closest he can come to commenting is to turn to a story about a woman whose disappearance after 9/11 went unnoticed for a month: "[It] didn't make me sad. I thought it was beautiful. To die like that... to sink without disturbing the surface of the water." With its off-balance marriage of the comedic and the deeply painful, its sympathetic embrace of its characters and its hard-won hope, this smart and elegantly written novel merits a wide readership. Ages 14-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Though he's been accepted by Brown University, 18-year-old James isn't sure he wants to go to college. What he really wants is to buy a nice house in a small town somewhere in the Midwest Indiana, perhaps. In the meantime, however, he has a dull, make-work job at his thrice-married mother's Manhattan art gallery, where he finds himself attracted to her assistant, an older man named John. In a clumsy attempt to capture John's attention, James winds up accused of sexual harassment! A critically acclaimed author of adult fiction, Cameron makes a singularly auspicious entry into the world of YA with this beautifully conceived and written coming-of-age novel that is, at turns, funny, sad, tender, and sophisticated. James makes a memorable protagonist, touching in his inability to connect with the world but always entertaining in his first-person account of his New York environment, his fractured family, his disastrous trip to the nation's capital, and his ongoing bouts with psychoanalysis. In the process he dramatizes the ambivalences and uncertainties of adolescence in ways that both teen and adult readers will savor and remember.--Cart, Michael Copyright 2007 Booklist
School Library Journal
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Gr 10 Up-Cameron's first young adult novel is a bildungsroman, a brief and situational portrait of 18-year-old James Sveck, a New York loner who dreams of bypassing college and settling down, solo, in the Midwest. James knows he's different: he doesn't really like people, especially those his age, and, following what he calls a "disastrous" experience at a national student seminar, concludes that he is better off alone. His sole attempt at connection reflects his reluctance and fear to relate to others and, ironically, it is this effort to explain and maintain his distance from others that is at the heart of his appeal. When he discovers a coworker's profile on a gay dating site, James, out of boredom, crafts one of his own to match what he believes the man wants. The ruse works too well and he succeeds in attracting the man's attention as well as his anger at being manipulated. The first-person narrative alternates between the present-the fleeting days of summer-and the near past as, encouraged by his therapist, the teen recalls his experience at the student seminar. Like Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower (MTV, 1999), Cameron's understated novel takes the intellectual antihero as its subject. Where readers are drawn to Chbosky's incongruously innocent and wise narrator, it may be more difficult to identify with James, whose linguistic sophistication may hold them at a distance and whose outlook is not as optimistic as Charlie's and is distinctly more cerebral.-Amy S. Pattee, Simmons College, Boston (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.