Genre: Magical Realism
Themes: Special Powers, Self-Discovery, Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Publisher: Tor Teen
Released: September 24, 2019
It’s hard for me to put into words just how in love with this book I am, so I’ll stick to describing the things I enjoyed most about it. I wasn’t familiar with The Bright Sessions, Lauren Shippen’s podcast on which the book is based, but having read The Infinite Noise, I’m keen to check it out. I have such a soft spot for nerd/jock romances and this certainly ranks among my favourites, albeit a nerd/jock romance with a twist, one of the heroes being an empath able to sense the emotions of everyone around him.
Caleb is such an easy protagonist to root for—thoughtful, sensitive, an all-round nice guy—and his struggle to get to grips with his powers as an empath felt wholly authentic to me. I especially loved how he describes both his own emotions and the emotions of others in terms of colour. Some are as you would expect—red for anger, blue for sadness—but others are more imaginative. Pride, for instance, is portrayed as the warm yellow of a ray of sunshine falling across your face.
It isn’t difficult to see what it is that attracts Caleb to Adam. He’s such a fascinating mixture—articulate and entirely unfazed when it comes to giving a presentation in front of the class, and yet so uncomfortable in social situations with his peers. Adam is also completely oblivious to how sexy he is in his Goth geekiness, which only serves to make him all the sexier, and I found the gradual way he emerges from his shell with Caleb and learns to trust him extremely moving.
There are a lot of elements to this story—friendship, coming out, Caleb’s battle to cope with his ability—all of which I loved, but my favourite part was the romance between the two boys. I fell so hard for both these characters and so it was wonderful to watch their slow progression from tentative friendship to something more. Adam may have been harbouring his crush for ages, but this is all new to Caleb, and the sweet awkwardness with which they dance around each other made my gut ache in the best way.
In particular, I applaud Lauren Shippen for her handling of Adam’s depression in this novel. As someone who suffers from depression myself, I identified with his struggle on a deeply personal level. It doesn’t matter how much you might have it under control, there are always going to be bad days. Those days are often lonely ones, so the fact that Caleb’s ability allows him to feel and understand some of what Adam is going through was something I found really special.
For a poignant nerd/jock romance with a difference, two heroes that well and truly stole my heart, and a story that left me desperate for more, The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen gets 10/10 rainbows!
About the Book
Caleb Michaels is a sixteen-year-old champion running back. Other than that his life is pretty normal. But when Caleb starts experiencing mood swings that are out of the ordinary for even a teenager, his life moves beyond “typical.”
Caleb is an Atypical, an individual with enhanced abilities. Which sounds pretty cool except Caleb’s ability is extreme empathy—he feels the emotions of everyone around him. Being an empath in high school would be hard enough, but Caleb’s life becomes even more complicated when he keeps getting pulled into the emotional orbit of one of his classmates, Adam. Adam’s feelings are big and all-consuming, but they fit together with Caleb’s feelings in a way that he can’t quite understand.
Caleb’s therapist, Dr. Bright, encourages Caleb to explore this connection by befriending Adam. As he and Adam grow closer, Caleb learns more about his ability, himself, his therapist—who seems to know a lot more than she lets on—and just how dangerous being an Atypical can be.
About Lauren Shippen
Lauren Shippen is a writer best known for her work in fiction podcasts. She was the creator and sole writer of the popular audio drama The Bright Sessions, which ran from 2015 to 2018. She went on to executive produce The AM Archives and co-produce the #1 podcast Passenger List, for which she received a BBC Audio Drama Award. Most recently, she wrote Marvels, an audio adaptation of the popular comic. Her first novel, The Infinite Noise, was released through Tor Teen in September 2019.
Lauren was named one of Forbes 2018 30 Under 30 in Media and one of MovieMaker Magazine and Austin Film Festival’s 25 Screenwriters to Watch. In 2019, she founded Atypical Artists, a company dedicated to audio storytelling. Shippen grew up in New York, where she spent most of her youth reading and going to Panic! at the Disco shows. She now lives in Los Angeles, where she does the same thing.