Wednesday, 11 September 2019

The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen

The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen is a novelisation of The Bright Sessions podcast. More accurately, it’s the novelisation of one particular storyline, primarily following two of the characters. I initially thought it was going to be a sequel, but it actually goes into more depth on events from the first two (I think) seasons of the podcast.

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.

In essence, this is a YA romance book, featuring two male protagonists. The speculative element is clear: one of the protagonists, Caleb, has an empathy superpower, which allows him (forces him) to sense other people’s emotions. So on the one hand, we have Caleb’s very unique view of the people around him. On the other hand, there’s Adam, who is a normal teen that happens to suffer from depression. Despite one being a it of a nerd and the other being a it of a jock, the two of them form a connection. I also want to be clear that it isn’t just through Caleb’s powers that we experience Adam’s depression. Adam has his own point of view chapters and was diagnosed long before the start of the book. It’s now just something he has to live with and, I think, a particularly good depiction of living with depression.

Since I have listened to the original podcast, I knew what was going to happen in this book. The fact that it’s a romance book cancels out the spoilery nature of being familiar with the podcast (because of how romance books work). The one thing I think might throw people who haven’t listened to the podcast is the sudden appearance of some of the other podcast characters (other than Dr Bright). They sort of fit into the story, but because Caleb and Adam weren’t directly involved in the most dramatic parts of the podcast events, they seemed very oddly tangential, despite triggering some personal issues for our protagonists. On the other hand, if you enjoy The Infinite Noise, it might be a good jumping off point for getting into The Bright Sessions podcast.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I generally recommend it to all fans of YA, particularly spec fic YA. I hope we get more novels in this universe, although I’m not sure which bits of podcast would work best. You definitely do not need to have listened to the podcast to enjoy this book and, conversely, listening to the podcast first does not in any way ruin the book.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: September 2019, Tor Teen
Series: Sort of? The first actual book, set in the Bright Sessions (podcast) world. I hope there'll be more books.
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

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