These reviews have been copied from the New York Public Library’s Website – http://www.nypl.org
PW Reviews 2007 October #2
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.)
[Page 54]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
SLJ Reviews 2007 November
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
[Page 117]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Booklist Reviews 2007 September #1
*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. Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.
The Horn Book
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2008 Spring
Eighteen-year-old gay teen James wants to use his college money to buy a house in the Midwest. The heart of the matter is a desire to stay safe; 9/11 happened outside his classroom window. Cameron, a respected author of adult fiction, has written a spare, spacious, quietly dazzling book. It’s Catcher in the Rye in a different voice–witty, reflective, terse. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2008 #1
James Sveck is eighteen, slated to go to Brown in the fall, spending the summer working at his mother’s outre Manhattan art gallery with John, a brilliant black aesthete and the only person James really likes besides his grandmother. It’s Catcher in the Rye in a very different voice — witty, reflective, terse. The dialogue pings. Hear James vis-ˆ-vis his well-meaning, distracted mother, just back from a third marriage, undone on the honeymoon; James vis-ˆ-vis his earnest, executive-suite father, on the eve of an eye-lift; James vis-ˆ-vis his sister, a Barnard student so nasty she rattles herself. And for sheer delectation, James vis-ˆ-vis his parent-appointed therapist whom he almost immobilizes with his nonanswers. Still, something is clearly wrong. James wants to use his college-money to buy a house in the Midwest, of all things. He cuts out from a national teenage program, The American Classroom, and spends two nights alone in a D.C. hotel. Swinging from retreat to pursuit, he creates an online persona that John responds to, makes a date to meet him at a museum party, and then reveals his identity — to John’s fury and humiliation. Yes, James is gay, knows he’s gay, minds only being asked. The heart of the matter: a desire to stay put and play safe, “not to move forward.” 9/11 happened outside his classroom window. But with a propitious assurance from his grandmother and an unexpected, whispered “Please, James” from his sister, James takes a cautious first step away, one might say, from Ground Zero. Cameron, a respected author of adult fiction, has written a spare, spacious, quietly dazzling book for teens and former teens. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews
VOYA Reviews 2007 October
James Sveck has it all, or so it seems to his family. He is eighteen, accepted into Brown University for the fall, and has a summer job working at his mother’s art gallery. From James’s point of view, however, life is not so idyllic. His summer job is a joke because hardly anyone ventures into the gallery-instead he has to appear busy and interested. Ditto the prospect of college: James is not certain that he even wants to attend school, uncertain as to why would he want to spend time with people his own age. On the surface, James appears to be just another disaffected product of a privileged life. Readers will discover, however, that there is more to James than his professed disinterest. Profoundly affected by the events of September 11 and his parents’ divorce, James coats his wounds and focuses instead on precision in language from his parents and his peersWhat saves this novel from becoming yet another story of a rich teen who is bored by his own life is the slow unfolding of the events that have colored James’s outlook on life. Cameron is never rushed in the narrative, taking his time to show readers that sometimes the events of one’s life can take a toll that is difficult to see at first. James, forced to become more introspective and to seriously consider why he is so dissatisfied with his life, comes to understand that same lesson and to learn that he can not only survive but also rise above his challenges.-Teri S. Lesesne 4Q 4P S Copyright 2007 Voya Reviews.