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