The Infinite Noise: Not Your Typical YA Novel

the infinite noise“His emotions are always a shade of blue. But not blue like the sky; blue like the ocean. And they’re warm and soft a lot of the time. Even when he’s sad, it’s warm and soft. Like sinking into a bath. And sometimes that’s nice and sometimes I get pulled under and nearly drown.”

With elegant, poetic sentences and believable fantasy elements, Audio Verse Award-winner and Forbes 30 Under 30 listee Lauren Shippen’s debut novel The Infinite Noise is one that is sure to entertain and enlighten you. Based off of the life of The Bright Sessions podcast character Caleb Michaels, the novel explores teenage relationships, same-sex relationships, high school drama, and one unique trait: Caleb’s ability to feel the emotions of others.

To quote the back of the book:

Caleb is a sixteen-year-old champion running back who develops the ability to experience the emotions of everyone around him. Caleb is an empath, and his therapist, Dr. Bright, is used to patients like him. Patients with enhanced abilities. Atypicals. She encourages him to explore his connection with a classmate Adam, whose emotions feel… right.

For starters, The Bright Sessions is a three-season-long audio drama about Atypicals– people who can read minds, control the actions of others, and many more things; if you can name it, chances are there is a character in the show that can do it. The show follows the characters’ lives through the recording of their therapy sessions with the series’ namesake, Dr. Bright; as they learn about the organization that oversees and monitors their very existence, and as they navigate their everyday life.

When I began listening to The Bright Sessions during my sophomore year of college, there were several things that led me to believe that the audio drama was well-written and produced to the highest standard possible. One of those things, in fact, was how relatable, in spite of their supernatural abilities, all of the characters were. I immediately developed a love for Caleb and Chloe (a mind-reader). Maybe this was because they are the characters to whom I am closest in age, maybe it is because of the energy their voice actors put into them– who knows. But one thing that made Caleb so unique from other young characters I’ve read about in science fiction is that he truly spoke and behaved like a true teenager. While in many stories teenagers are made to act like twenty-somethings, Caleb is still growing as a person, learning who he is, going to proms– all on top of trying to get his power under control.

And while his life is turned upside down by his new identity as an empath, he also develops a deep connection with his classmate, Adam, which forges a beautiful story line of discovering his sexuality and developing his friendship with Adam. The two boys seem very different from the start, but their lives blend together in beautifully unexpected ways. This is evident in the method the book was written in, with every other chapter being written from the perspective of each boy.

The novel offers incredible insight into both of their lives, often allowing the reader to read about one event through the eyes of both characters. This was often humorous at times, awkward at times, and truly reminded me of just how odd adolescence can be (not that it was all that long ago for me, but still).

Another thing that Lauren Shippen does especially well is the authentic manner in which she writes about Atypicals. The way that they and their abilities are introduced, you would think that it makes perfect sense that individuals like these would be around. It all just feels that real! The novel (and the audio drama) also does a great job of showing readers/listeners that although these people are a little advantaged in some ways, their lives are just as complicated (if not made more complicated) as anyone else’s.

Furthermore, it is clear that much research was done on mental health and counseling, which is so important.

Shippen also writes about young male relationships very well and nearly convincingly. I especially appreciated that when writing from Adam’s perspective, she did not rely on gay stereotypes. Adam is not written as the “token gay character.” Rather, Adam is a person who is gay. It does not define him, though it is clear that it is an important part of him.

Finally, I love how the plot points began to converge with events that occurred in the podcast. It kind of added that, “Ah ha! So that’s the full story there” element.

When I say that I enjoyed this novel, I mean it. It is so difficult to say much more without saying spoilers. I went through this book so quickly– eh, as quickly as I could while being a college student in nine classes (gotta love being a music major). It is definitely a great summer read, or, as it is set to release in September, a great back-to-school read.

This novel is definitely one of my favorites that I have read this year. So what is the verdict?

4.5 stars.

This book deserves an ‘A.’ The only things keeping me back from giving it a 100% are:

  • The book could easily have been 50 or even 100 pages shorter. The novel has many beautifully formed sentences, but not all of them are necessary.
  • My first point could probably be fixed if the novel included more dialogue and less narrative.
  • Some character interactions (especially with the character Tyler) seem too Hollywood-high school-ish. But then again I didn’t go to a normal high school, so I am unsure if this kind of stuff actually happens in high schools. All I know is it wasn’t really a thing in mine.
  • A few grammatical errors and typos that I am sure will be fixed soon anyway.

And now, to conclude, here are the absolute strongest points that I thought the book had:

  • The cover design? Adorable.
  • Thanks for the autograph, by the way.
  • Adam and Caleb’s thoughts were easy to want to read more of.
  • Adam’s parents are kind of a topic in the audio drama, so it was nice to “meet” them through witnessing their daily interactions with Adam.
  • Caleb’s interactions with his family were very sweet.
  • Dr. B, yo!
  • Chloe. Nothing else to say.
  • The series of short chapters toward the end of the book.
  • I love how the book ended in a way that there could definitely be another one, but it still tied up the story in a nice bow.

I really hope that Shippen (can I just say “Lauren?” Are we on that level yet?) makes another Bright Sessions novel because, um, I need more. I especially want to read about Chloe, or Sam, or maybe even Damien… ah, the possibilities. You’re doing amazing, sweetie.

And for those of you dying to read this novel for yourself, it’ll be out in September 2019! You can pre-order on Amazon and wherever else you get your books.

Recommended for fans of: Simon vs. the Homosapien Agenda and Love, Simon; The Bright Sessions audio drama, Inhuman Condition web series

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I received The Infinite Noise directly from the author in exchange for a review posted against the release date. All opinions are my own.

 

 

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Standing on Shifting Sand.

I know that 1) it has been forever since I have written on here, and 2) I don’t normally write personal posts that don’t relate to travel or music, but this has been weighing on me. A lot.

I am neck-deep in my junior year right now, and suddenly everything is weighing on me. Some days I feel grateful that I still have two years left, and other days I wish that I had just stuck with criminal justice and graduated this semester. Some days I am proud of my accomplishments, and then a voice in my head tells me that it all amounts to nothing. Some days I am genuinely excited about my career path, and others I can barely stand to listen to music.

This unpredictable weather that is my mind has made it difficult for me to truly live in the moment. I feel like I’m constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, constantly worried that anything good is a trap. I can’t even sit still anymore; it’s like if I’m not studying, working, or otherwise investing in my future, I am wasting space.

This is not something that I particularly enjoy writing about, but I think that it is something that many people can relate to. At this stage of life, we’re living on our own (maybe even living out of the dorms now), we’re closer to being in grad school than we are to high school, our friends are getting married and having kids, and we are beginning to truly understand our beliefs. Hardly anything is certain, and when everything in life is so temporary, it’s difficult to allow ourselves to take a step back and relax.

For me, I think that most of my uncertainty and anxiety are coming from a deep fear of what’s next. The truth is, I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I know that I want to study sacred music and religion at Yale, but I also know that my performance resume–for a school like Yale, at least–is near empty. To make matters more complicated, I have been informed of various opportunities within my school and with the Cleveland Orchestra that could increase my chances of getting in, but I’m just too paralyzed with fear to even try those things.

Not to mention, I am finally in a place that I love with people that I love and doing what I love. But one day, everything will end. I will graduate. People will move away. Relatives will pass away. Friendships will end.

I feel like everything keeps slipping away.

But I am still holding on. I wish that I could end this post by saying that the problem has been completely solved, but it’s not. I will probably struggle with this feeling as long as I live.

But there is only one thing in my life that I can be certain is constant.

“In Christ alone, my hope is found… this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm.”

My God will always be there, and thankfully, His faithfulness is not dependent on my feelings. I am still scared of change, I am still afraid of death, and I am still terrified of failure. And I hate that I will never know what’s around the corner.

But even when I feel like I’m sinking, I have to trust that I will not be destroyed. And sometimes, I may need help from a therapist or mental health professional. But at the end of the day, I can be confident that my life is in His perfect hands. He cannot lose or forget me– I am His.

“From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny!

My Playlist for the New Year

We are at the end of the first day of 2019, so I thought that now would be a great time to share some of my favorite music for entering a new year. For all of the songs in one pin-able graphic, scroll to the bottom of this post!

1.) “Only Time” by Enya

Even though this song was a meme for a brief period of time, it still is one of the most timeless pieces of 21st century music (pun completely intended). Everything from the vocalizations to the beautiful Alto II lines to the modulation at 2:24 makes this song as stunning as ever.

“Who knows? Only time.”

2.) “Salvation” by Gabrielle Aplin

Gabrielle Aplin’s breathy vocals and incorporation of bold string and horn sections with the song’s piano-driven harmony is just the amount of beauty to capture the spirit of winter.

“You are the snowstorm; I’m purified… and let the band play out as I’m making my way home again. Glorious, we transcend into a psychedelic silhouette.”

3.) “Healer” by Kari Jobe

Whenever I’m going through it, this song always puts me in a calm(er) mindset. The lyrics are great ones to keep in mind if you are anxious at all about the coming year.

“You hold my every moment. You calm my raging seas. You walk with me through fire and heal all my disease. I trust in You. Lord, I trust in You… nothing is impossible for You. You hold my world in Your hands.”

4.) “Wasted” by Carrie Underwood

From Carrie Underwood’s very first album, this is a beautiful song about how short and precious life is.

“I don’t want to keep on wishing; missing the still of the morning, the color of the night.”

5.) “Hope is What We Crave” by For KING & COUNTRY

This is a remake of the duo’s song from their first album of same name, Crave. This one is a little bit more uplifting and changes some of the lyrics, making it perfect for the hopeful spirit of the new year.

“To live, to die, to lose, to get, to rise above, to love again.”

6.) “Shake it Out” by Florence + The Machine

“I am done with my graceless heart, so tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart.”

7.) “Light it Up” by For KING & COUNTRY

“Yes, it can be a beautiful morning.”

8.) “Gravel to Tempo” by Hayley Kiyoko

This song is about a teenage Hayley prior to coming out as lesbian. Although I am fairly straight, this is still a song that I find encouraging for anyone trying to understand themselves better in the coming year.

“I don’t feel adequate thinking I’m a monster in disguise. We’ve gone down every list, stuck but I have got to begin to resist. Caught up with the fact that life will be dark… I’ll do this my way… I gotta be on my own.”

9.) “On and On” by Chasen

“I’ve tried my way; it always ends up being a mistake, but You’re right when You say that You set the time for the plans You’ve made… so I’m here, I’m waiting, because I believe… I know that Your love is strong. It goes on and on and on and on.”

10.) “I’ll Be Your Breeze” by Andrew Belle

If you listen to this song and then one from one of his more current albums, you will be shocked that it is the same songwriter. All of his albums are good, but this old EP always has a special place in my heart.

“I know we all play our part in this thing. We’ve all got a song we were put here to sing.”

11.) “Growing Pains” by Deas Vail

Deas Vail is one of my favorite bands from the time I was a preteen, and this is at least in my top five of favorite songs of theirs. It has everything– a beautiful mirroring of piano and violin solos, pumped-up percussion, and thought-provoking lyrics.

“Pages turn and then unfold to show us where we’ve been as the signs along the road to lead us home again.”

12.) “Go Do” by Jonsi

“We can always know that we can do everything. Go do.”

13.) “Let ’em Say” by Lizzo and Caroline Smith

“Let ’em say what they’re gonna say. They’re gonna feel what they gonna feel.”

14.) “Dance in the Graveyards” by Delta Rae

This is not supposed to be ominous or anything; I promise that it’s an uplifting song.

“I don’t want to rest in peace; I want to dance in joy… and while I’m alive, I don’t wanna be alone.”

15.) “Dare You to Move” by Switchfoot

I would also like to suggest Jayesslee’s cover, which is what I usually listen to. It can be found on Spotify.

“Move like today never happened before.”

16.) “Love Out Loud” by Jaci Velasquez

“Take His love to the streets, show compassion to a soul in need… the touch is loving more than words; it’s reaching out for all to see the Light that shines through me.”

17.) “Who You Say I Am” by Hillsong Worship

While I am honestly mostly attracted to this song’s bassline, it still has such a powerful message. Also, fun fact, my friend knows this in sign language.

“Who the Son sets free… is free indeed. I’m a child of God, yes I am!”

18.) “God is Able” by Hillsong Worship

“Greater than all we seek, greater than all we ask. He has done great things.”

19.) “Easy” by the Commodores

This is, quite literally, an easy-going song about just letting go of others’ expectations and kind of just doing your own thing. It also has a beautiful (yet brief) modulation at 2:40. That eight-second interlude is actually my favorite part, although the guitar solo is obviously a close second.

I believe that this song carries an energy that all of us should carry into 2019 and the rest of our lives.

“I wanna be free, just me.”

CHristmas

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4 New Year’s Day Journal Activities (and tips for keeping your resolutions!)

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope that 2018 treated you all well and that 2019 will be even better. For me, 2018 was a pretty average year– it wasn’t too bad, but it wasn’t extremely awesome, either. However, I did follow through on ten of last year’s non-musical resolutions (out of eighteen… but I’m still proud of myself– some people only have one and they still don’t reach it) and experienced a lot of new things, so I’m going to count it as a good one.

In 2019, I’m hoping to follow through on at least twelve of the non-musical half of my resolutions (I will have 38 total), and I think that I may be on track. If you are someone who struggles to keep it up after January, then these prompts might just help you!

LIfe in g major

Journal Prompt #1: Gratitude

It is easy to get caught up in the false dichotomy of a year either being good or bad. I mean, just scroll through Twitter for five minutes and the amount of “I want to die” tweets will outnumber the “I made so much progress” ones.

If you are someone who had a bad year at face value, give yourself a few minutes to think about everything you have to be thankful for. It can be as big or little as you want, and remember to have fun with it! Just as you may be thankful for your family and friends, you can also be thankful for tacos.

Journal Prompt #2: Collage

You can make a collage out of anything you want– theatre programs, magazine papers, sheet music– you name it. Just use something that is meaningful to you, and there is no way that you can go wrong.

A creative idea that I tried this year was keeping the majority of my 2018 retail receipts and then collaging the ones from special occasions (e.g. a receipt from going out to dinner on my friend’s birthday) while providing a small sentence explaining the relevance of the receipt.

Journal Prompt #3: Year-in-Review

Isn’t that the thing that Spotify does at the end of every year? The thing that always lies about your top genre? And says that The Cheetah Girls is one of your top artists but you only listened to them like, five times this year?

Well, it can also just be a list of things that happened in the year. I typically focus on the good things, but you don’t have to. Anything that was relevant to your growth as an individual is worth putting on the list.

Journal Prompt #4: New Year’s Resolution(s)

Everyone and their mother has a resolution, but are you making one that is achievable?

First, look back or try to remember last year’s resolutions. Which ones did you succeed with and which ones did you not? If you succeeded (e.g. resolved to read ten books in the year and followed through), then challenge yourself to do it again, but this time upping the requirements (e.g. twelve books instead of ten). If you did not succeed, check to see if you gave yourself a clear way to measure (for example, “I want to maintain a 3.5 GPA” in lieu of “I want to maintain a good GPA”). If you didn’t, then do it this time around! If you did and still didn’t succeed, then lower your expectations slightly. For example, if you have never been able to get a 4.0 and it’s been your resolution every year, you may become discouraged. So, maybe lower your expectation to 3.8 and see if you can achieve that. If you do, raise your standards the next year and build your way up to that 4.

Do not make resolutions that are dependent on another person. Obviously there are some exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, try to make it so that the only person holding you back from achieving your goals is you. Don’t give yourself the “they didn’t pull their weight, so it’s not my fault I failed” excuse. Likewise, do not resolve things that you cannot control. Don’t resolve that you will no longer be single this year when there’s an entire other person involved who has to fall in love with you. While it could happen (and I am PRAYING it happens to me), there is no possible way to work toward it on your own.

Keep looking at your resolutions throughout the year to assess your progress. You may reach some of your goals without even thinking about it!

Don’t be too strict. For example, I am trying to be more punctual for social events; however, I know that simply writing “I will be on time” is going to get me nowhere. So, instead I wrote “[I will] arrive on time [or] within five minutes of start time.” This will help me to ease into it and stay encouraged as I focus on my progress.

BONUS Journal Prompt: Life Update

This prompt is just like any entry that you would normally write; just remember to include the date, your current age, year in school if applicable, a brief idea of what a typical day is like for you, relationship update, realizations, career update, current obsessions, and maybe even a little bit of your five-year plan.

 

Well, that’s all I have to say! Real images from my journal are below. Are you someone who usually achieves all of their resolutions? If so, tell me how you do it in the comments! If you liked this post, then please hit “Like,” feel free to follow me on here, and you can also follow my Pinterest (@hopeezell5), Instagram (@hopeezell) and Twitter (@TheAfroAlto).