The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen

For those of you not familiar with The Bright Sessions, it’s one of the most highly regarded audio dramas in recent years and centers around the therapy sessions for people struggling to adapt to their superpowers. Lauren Shippen never fails to put the human in superhuman, writing beautifully complex and realistic characters just trying to connect with the people around them.

As a huge fan of the podcast, I was beyond thrilled to hear that the series was being adapted into a trilogy of books. Imagine if Robin Hobb, Maggie Stiefvater, or Becky Chambers announced their works were being adapted for film, and you have an idea of how exciting this is for fans of The Bright Sessions (and also an idea of Shippen’s writing style).

Anyway, enough rambling.

Caleb Michaels is a star on his high school football team and generally liked by his peers. His life would be pretty great if he didn’t have to feel the emotions of everyone around him. As an empath in a school of teenagers, Caleb’s life is far from typical and further from easy.

Dr. Bright—Caleb’s therapist and namesake for the original podcast—helps Caleb to explore his abilities and encourages him to befriend Adam, another student whose emotions seem to  keep pulling Caleb in.

I know him. All empath stuff aside, I know who Adam is. And that makes me feel more like a superhero than anything.

This is not a story you read for the plot. While the timeline overlaps with the first two seasons of The Bright Sessions and certain key events take place in each, the heart of this story is Caleb and Adam’s relationship. On paper, the two boys should have nothing in common. Adam’s a brilliant loner who loves Shakespeare and struggles with severe depression. Caleb’s a popular athlete with a loving family and an inconvenient superpower. None of these differences are easy to overcome. And, as the boys come to learn, some differences are best embraced.

I’m probably not the only reader who suffers from an unfair bias against the Young Adult label. Whenever I do manage to pick one up I’m often pleasantly surprised. This time I was blown away.

There are no “if only they talked to each other” moments that drag on for half a novel. Characters communicate, muck things up, then try again. There’s no love triangle, just human beings wanting to connect and being pretty damn mature about it for teenagers. If anything, the YA medium allowed Shippen to express her remarkable understanding of humanity more clearly than I’d have thought possible.

He didn’t make things better, necessarily—he didn’t chase away the clouds when they loomed heavy and dark over me—but he did make it easier to ignore the impending storm. Caleb makes me feel clever. He makes me feel interesting.

I wish I’d had this book to read when I was in high school. It’s an encouraging reminder that people are rarely as straightforward as they seem from the outside, and an open invitation to look beyond the black and white stereotypes to which we can be tempted to reduce the world around us.

I received a free ARC of this book from Tor Teen via Edeweiss in exchange for a fair and honest review. The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen releases September 24, 2019.

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