The weather is getting colder, Starbucks broke out the red holiday cups , and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. But let’s go back to that happier—and warmer—time in late August when two novels about love were published: The Beginning of Everything and The Infinite Moment of Us. These two books aren’t on our long list, but in a year when contemporary realistic romance is ubiquitous, each of these novels has noteworthy qualities. Let’s snuggle up and discuss, shall we?
(By the way, you know we do spoilers here, right? Don’t say I didn’t warn you when I spill some major secrets.)
Robyn Schneider’s protagonist is Ezra Faulkner, a high school senior whose entire life is changed by a car accident that shatters his knee. Schneider lays out her thesis in chapter one; what do you do, and who do you become, after the defining moment of your life?
Ezra and new girl, Cassidy, represent the two paths you can take. Ezra pushes forward because he physically can’t be who he used to be; his inability to go back to being school tennis star forces him to reassess who he is and what he wants. Then there’s Cassidy, the perfectly geeky/pretty/witty manic pixie dream girl. While Ezra is living out the book’s title, Cassidy remains a snapshot of a girl too good to be true, because it allows her to hide the wreck she really is.
The theme is executed with great earnestness, which makes me wonder if this novel might be more suited to folks my age as a kind of aspirational nostalgia. Ezra’s new geeky debate team friends are beautifully flawed; they host a floating film festival, read comics, and watch Doctor Who (full disclosure: as soon as one character was described as wearing a bow tie and blazer, I knew that Robyn Schneider was speaking my language). They’re people I would hang out with now. But this means that the characters look and act like mini-adults, and struggle through identity issues that most adults are still working on. So when the characters act like teenagers, it’s hard not to see uneven writing.
It’s no surprise that this novel has three stars, but it’s not a serious contender this year; Robyn Schneider is a writer with chops. She has a strong voice and a real knack for supplying her characters with great dialogue. There was so much about her depiction of the high school experience that was just right, but next time she should give us real teens.
The Infinite Moment of Us, Lauren Myracle
Amulet Books, August 2013
Reviewed from ARC
Last December The New York Times ran a profile piece on Lauren Myracle. The phrase “Fifty Shades of Grey for teenagers” kind of jumped off the page at the time, but in context the author was explaining what her book isn’t. Yes, the characters in this book have sex. They have a lot of it, they enjoy it, they also happen to be teenagers. But Lauren Myracle was right. The sex in this book isn’t erotica for teens, it’s an integral part of this novel’s exploration of intimacy.
I really enjoyed this book. There is nothing quite like reading a summer romance over a summer break, especially when it’s a romance filled with such raw emotion and truth as Charlie and Wren’s. Myracle doesn’t just describe the physical mechanics of sex, she demystifies sexuality and desire (even better is that she treats Wren and Charlie equally in this regard, helping to validate female sexuality). What she does so well is show how physical attraction combines with emotional intimacy to develop into love.
As in all relationships, Charlie and Wren both have insecurities and baggage that threaten to break them apart–Wren worries that her problems are not as important as Charlie’s; he struggles to leave an old toxic relationship behind. Although the novel ends just before a definitive resolution, it’s fairly certain that they are moving towards reconciliation.
This happy ending is likely to satisfy readers, but it leaves some of other themes dangling. When love is that strong, what role does chance and social pressure play? If we’re to believe that Charlie and Wren do work it out in the end, what happens to their insecurities? It’s easier to forgive underdeveloped secondary characters and neat plotting when the core of a novel is so strong, but in writing the ending that is surely to satisfy readers, Myracle chips away at the realism of her book, exposing other flaws.
Despite those cracks, I agree with Kelly Jensen over at Stacked who thinks The Infinite Moment of Us may be this generation’s Forever. (I highly encourage you to check out Kelly’s excellent review, by the way. She has a great analysis, particularly regarding Charlie’s ex-girlfriend, Starrla.) Lauren Myracle’s book just misses Printzliness, but it is still a powerful read.
Did you have a favorite summer book fling? Do you think either of these romances has what it takes to keep warm come January? Let us know in the comments!