“And then—just when I was hoping a dam would burst—the wall just dissolves, letting the blue-green wash over me, clearing out the muck in my veins for the first time in months.”
Synopsis: 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.
Age Group & Genre(s): Contemporary, LGBTQAI+, Romance, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Point of View: Alternating First Person
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Format: eBook (Kindle ARC)
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review; thank you NetGalley and Lauren Shippen for the opportunity to read and review this novel. This in no way sways my review or opinion of the novel.
Desperately searching for diverse novels, I began scrolling through the vastness of NetGalley. Honestly, I was just eager to move away from the “stereotype” and “traditional” characters and plots in books. Luckily, I found this gem AND I was accepted for an ARC.
This book was SO hard to put down. I was completely captured and mesmerized by the writing and compelling story, staying up horrendously late just to discover a TINY bit more of the plot. Though there are a FEW things that bothered me by the end of the novel, I TRULY found this to be an extraordinary reading experience.
CONTENT & TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains topics regarding abuse (emotional and physical), anger issues, anxiety (panic attacks), bullying, depression, homophobic slurs, mental illness, self harm (cutting — mentioned), suicide (mentioned) and suicidal thoughts.
A compelling and authentic story, this felt like an entirely new reading experience. Truly, I can’t recall the last time something felt THIS original. I’ve read quite a large number of beautiful stories this year, but they had elements similar to other books or series I’ve read in the past. The Infinite Noise was this ENTIRELY new reading journey, making it nearly impossible to put down. The combination of exploring Caleb’s abilities in addition to just seeing our two main characters get through the ups and downs of high school life is genius, playing off of my love for both coming of age and that urban fantasy genre — without the fantasy element taking over the story. If you’re REALLY looking for that something NEW in the young adult realm, THIS should be your next read.
One of the best parts of The Infinite Noise are the characters, for they’re lovable and memorable! I couldn’t help but fall in love with Caleb and Adam. These two rounded and in-depth characters are so full of interesting traits and quirks, making them come to life off the pages. Watching them develop to the characters they end up being was such a delight. Shippen also doesn’t stay within the stereotypes too much, which was a relief. Though Caleb’s a jock, he’s a bit of a nerd and doesn’t necessarily enjoy parties. And although Adam’s quite the genius, he isn’t perfect and still has the courage to stand up for himself against bullies. Dr. Bright’s another favourite of mine, as she truly seems to care for the atypicals and has such an interesting vibe about her. The characters you’re meant to like … you LOVE!
Shippen addresses a number of sensitive topics, handling them in a delicate and appropriate manner. To be frank, a large number of novels still don’t properly address heavier topics well; they either have NO tact or just skim the topic as though it never happened. The Infinite Noise deviates from this, discussing a large number of “rather taboo” subjects in a respectful way. The premise of the story follows Caleb’s journey through his connection with Adam but also through therapy, something that isn’t typically seen in young adult novels (or novels in general). Through this, the novel explores Caleb learning to cope with his emotions and his anger issues. On the flip side, Adam’s an extremely intelligent young man who suffers from depression and social awkwardness. The novel doesn’t necessarily SOLVE all of these issues like magic, for that’s not really how mental health works. Rather, The Infinite Noise examines how to cope with these feelings through personal growth and seeking help from others, normalizing sensitive mental health topics just a tad bit more.
The romance is ON POINT — utterly captivating and breathtaking. Seeing the characters gradually realize their feelings for one another’s the BEST part of this novel. The love’s so tender and innocent, yet heart-grabbing and passionate. The LGBT+ representation’s done incredibly well. On one hand, we have a character fully aware of their sexual orientation. On the other hand, we have a character who slowly realizes their feelings and comes to terms with this discovery in a fairly healthy manner. It felt so DIFFERENT in comparison to other “coming out” stories. There wasn’t this TABOO feelings … their acknowledgement of realizing their attracted to the same sex just felt NORMAL … which is how it should be. Shippen … you made my day.
There’s a lot of unanswered questions regarding this fictional Earth, “atypicals” and these sinister organizations. It took about halfway through the book to realize that, unlike the X-Men or other Marvel comics, the majority of the population doesn’t appear to be aware of the existence of atypicals. Learning about this later in the novel made the first half somewhat confusing, since I was trying to decipher the severity of Caleb’s secret. In addition, the novel briefly discusses the dangers of these “top secret” organizations that perform tests and experiments on people like Caleb. But then Shippen just dismisses it without exploring this PRETTY important piece of information further. So here I am, left both confused and frustrated. HOPEFULLY, we will learn more in the next Bright Sessions novel.
The lack of action and attention to “atypicals” is FAIRLY disappointing. Though I’m VERY glad that the book focuses primarily on Caleb and Adam, there was something left missing once they reconciled certain ‘unknown questions’ (especially since this part takes place at about the 75% mark) . The random meetings with other atypicals, the panic yet disregard for these secret and dangerous organizations … you’d think there would be more action regarding these elements of the plot … but you’d be wrong. The lack of that “action/adventure” after these momentous discoveries made the rest of the story rather mundane and dull, as though there was no real point in bringing up the topic of these groups to begin with.
For those who dislike series that change the main characters, this MAY NOT be for you. I emphasize MAY NOT, for I’m not really certain myself. After reading more about this series on Goodreads, it looks as though book two and three will follow different characters under Dr. Bright’s care. I’m ALL for learning about new atypicals … but I’m PRETTY upset by this. The Infinite Noise doesn’t feel COMPLETE yet: Caleb and Adam’s story in general, Caleb’s continuous growth controlling his abilities, Adam’s mental health issues, the recent discoveries they’ve unveiled about these “secret” organizations and SO MUCH MORE. There’s also a number of other interesting characters in this book that I really want to learn more about. As of the moment, their appearances feel rather random and unnecessary to the plot growth. So if the next couple of books don’t explore all the items mentioned above more, I’ll actually feel like this book only deserves a 3 star rather than 4 star due to a lack of exploration and open ended events.
Shippen’s The Infinite Noise is a beautiful and breathtaking novel, touching upon both the exhilarating and difficult parts of being a teenager in high school … learning how one fits in such a large and expansive world. Though there’s a number of “fantasy” and “unearthly” elements to the story, Shippen really touches upon the many different aspects of learning to cope and understand human emotion. I can honestly say I have yet to read a book like this, making the reading experience even more grand.
I DO recommend this novel if you enjoy:
↠ An authentic and original story
↠ A focus on mental health, therapy and social anxiety
↠ Alternating POVs
↠ A focus on M/M romance
↠ Descriptive writing
I DO NOT recommend this novel if you dislike:
↠ A large number of unanswered questions
↠ An underdeveloped plot
↠ A lack of world building and exploration
Have you read Lauren Shippen’s The Infinite Noise?