This week’s guest post for our “So You Want to Read YA?” series comes from Andrew Karre.
This is the first line of Anthony Burgess’s masterpiece, A Clockwork Orange, a great novel almost always overshadowed by a great movie (one of those rare instances of the two works occupying the same level of achievement). I would argue that, if Salinger’s Holden Caufield is the father of all YA protagonists, then Burgess’s Alex is their wicked unacknowledged uncle. “What’s it going to be” is, not coincidentally, also the main question of adolescence. It’s a question one asks when one has leisure, education, and the expectation of some rapidly approaching but ultimately unknowable future. Clockwork also captures the pure linguistic inventiveness that is native to teenage experience. You need only read the first page to get a sense of Burgess’s powers in this regard.
Peter Cameron’s Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You does many things brilliantly, but perhaps what it does best is capture the absolute loneliness of adolescence, which is, paradoxically, one of the most universal and collective experiences of modern life. If you don’t want to throttle and hug James Sveck at nearly every turn, you, gentle reader, have no heart.
There. I humbly submit this as a delightfully circuitous path to adolescent aesthetic bliss.