I was lucky enough to be selected to get an ARC of The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen (my first ever ARC!). I had finished reading it only a day later, and I am glad to say, upfront, before we get into the nitty gritty details, that I really, truly enjoyed it.
I’m a longtime fan of Shippen’s work; I support The Bright Sessions on Patreon and have for years. The Bright Sessions is a fiction podcast that is often described as “therapy for superheros”, but in reality, is much more complex than that summary suggests, with characters that touch you, representation up the wazoo, and storylines that stay with you years after the fact. The writing, cast, and production are all exceptional; it’s definitely one of my favorite podcasts, and example of what fiction podcasts are capable of doing. The Infinite Noise is the first of a three book deal for Shippen, each of which will focus on a different set of characters from TBS.
Quiet. Blue-green. Not sharp like red and orange, but deep. Endless. It fills me up, empties me out. Clears out the sludge, the pins and needles, but makes me tense. Restless.
I open my eyes. Find his.
Adam.From Caleb’s point of view.
The Infinite Noise focuses on fan-favorite characters Caleb and Adam, showing their arc from the first season of the show from their point of view. No spoilers (almost) for those who haven’t listened to the podcast, but it doesn’t really show us anything big we didn’t know already. We don’t really get a new story, which I admit disappointed me a little; just a more fleshed-out version of it. We do see some of the therapy sessions, including, for those who have listened to the show, that one, but Shippen is clever enough to not just retype the whole script, instead focusing on moments that are important to this specific story.
I think the character who is most served by this story is Adam, as his point of view is almost completely missing from the early episodes of TBS. The descriptions of his depression, especially, hit me hard. As a person who suffers from depression themselves, I really related to certain sections of the book that were, basically, an in-depth examination of how depression affects relationships.
I don’t want to be around you right now or during those times at all, but I would love if you took care of me and sat silently in the corner of the room for when I need someone to hug me.I usually mark quotes with brackets, but the latter part I underlined as well. in case it wasn’t clear that i liked that part.
This is from Adam’s point of view, in case it wasn’t clear.
Aside from some typos that they missed in the first few chapters, my major complaint about this version of the book is that it ends very abruptly. All the other stages of the relationship are given plenty of time to breathe; they grow organically. But the very last part – and I do mean the very last part – could use, like, twenty more pages. A little more focus on how they feel, since the whole point of this book is to flesh out a story we’ve already seen.
I also can’t decide if I like the chapters that deal with the large world of the TBS universe. In a way, I knew they were coming, and felt like they came out of left field. They almost served no purpose in the story except to connect this story to the wider story, except that’s not true at all, because a part of that first time they get involved in the wider world is the way it affects their relationship. But then… it’s almost as if it goes nowhere. If you listen to the podcast, you know where it’s going. But if you don’t listen to the podcast, it’s a plot thread that starts and doesn’t finish. I am not Lauren Shippen, but if I were, I’d probably flesh out the friendships Caleb makes, and find a way to tie it into the storyline the book actually focuses on.
I swear I enjoyed this book, though. I swallowed it on an afternoon I really should’ve spent studying for an exam. There are quite a few quotes I marked that I did not put in this review. And both Adam and Caleb’s arcs are very convincing and well fleshed out, except for the last bit. Adam’s assurance of his sexuality is juxtaposed with Caleb’s questioning in a way that works, and doesn’t suggest that either of them are wrong; they’re just at a different stage of their self discovery. Teenage awkwardness is everywhere in this book, but not too much; it’s just the teenager experience, and Shippen understands that in a way that a lot of other YA authors don’t.
I requested this ARC specifically because on one of Shippen’s patreon-exclusive livestreams, she mentioned the fact that Adam was half-Jewish. This does come into play somewhat in the early part of the book, but I would have liked at least one more reference to it, specifically because it’s mentioned Adam’s family sits down for Friday night dinners, but at a later chapter he skips this dinner to go to Caleb’s and nothing is made of this, not even a mention of his telling his parents he had to miss Friday night dinner. This might seem nitpicky, but honestly, I’m a little tired of Jewish representation not mattering; this is a larger problem in the industry. In most of the YA books I’ve read with Jewish representation, it’s been incidental, practically meaningless, including my current read, Autoboyagraphy, which is specifically about what having a marginalized identity in a non-welcoming environment is like. It makes me really glad that my next read is the ARC for It’s a Whole Spiel, which specifically focuses on Jewish stories.
I’ll summarize by saying the strengths of this book are in the LGBTQA+ representation and mental illness representation, as well as very consistent writing which deftly handles its main issues respectfully. It didn’t blow my mind, but this is just an ARC; here’s hoping it gets even better from here. A solid four stars.