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Romance Roundup, Summer Style!

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.)

The Beginning of Everything - Robyn SchneiderThe Beginning of Everything, Robyn Schneider
Katherine Tegen Books, August 2013
Reviewed from ARC

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 Use - Lauren Myracle 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!

About Joy Piedmont

Joy Piedmont is a librarian and technology integrator at LREI - Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School. Prior to becoming a librarian, Joy reviewed and reported for Entertainment Weekly’s PopWatch. She reviews for SLJ and is the President of the Hudson Valley Library Association. When she’s not reading or writing about YA literature, she’s compulsively consuming culture of all kinds, learning to fly (on a trapeze), and taking naps with her cat, Oliver. Find her on Twitter @InquiringJoy, email her at joy dot piedmont at gmail dot com, or follow her on Tumblr. Her opinions do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of SLJ, LREI, HVLA or any other initialisms with which she is affiliated.


  1. SPOILERS ALL AROUND–I think there’s a really interesting cultural-norms discussion in the idea of Infinite Moment of Us being the new Forever (which I don’t dispute), because one of the most powerful things about Forever, to me, is that the main characters break up. And after they break up, Katherine moves on and starts seeing someone else, and the reader understands that what she had with Michael was important and special, but not meant to last for the rest of her life as she becomes an adult–and that she didn’t make a mistake by having sex with him even though he’s not her One True Love.

    I thought Infinite Moment was weaker for its ending, for not making Wren and Charlie actually deal with the different futures ahead of them and move on with their lives. But I wonder whether my teens will agree. (I also co-sign the concerns about Starrla.)

    • Joy Piedmont says

      “…one of the most powerful things about Forever, to me, is that the main characters break up. And after they break up, Katherine moves on and starts seeing someone else, and the reader understands that what she had with Michael was important and special, but not meant to last for the rest of her life as she becomes an adult–and that she didn’t make a mistake by having sex with him even though he’s not her One True Love.”

      Yes, yes, and yes. And that’s exactly why I think the happy ending raises all of these questions that wouldn’t necessarily be present if they went their separate ways. There is definitely a missed opportunity for the characters to explore their futures independently, and it also raises the question of how dependent on one another they should be. Is their relationship healthy? However, I could argue the other side and say that by having Charlie and Wren attempt to reconcile at the end of the novel, Lauren Myracle is showing that she isn’t trying to make any philosophical statements about pre-marital sex; she’s writing a romance, and very often romances have the kind of endings that can only happen in fiction.

  2. Elizabeth Burns says

    Infinite Moment of Us: First, since I have never liked Michael in Forever (not in any of my rereads) I was so happy when she broke up with him. And I agree, one thing that is strong about Forever is that it isn’t a romance.

    I thought Moment’s ending was realistic but disappointing — Wren is missing the chance, in the coming year, to stand on her own feet. Wren has been so protected, and she realizes it — thus her trip — and I think having Charlie along, to keep protecting her, makes sense actually for both characters but ultimately just personally disappoints me. (For the record, I also never liked the ending of Say Anything, for some of the same reasons). I don’t hold it against the book, though, because that is more about me than the book. The book’s ending is true to the characters.

    I think I’m one of the few readers that liked Starrla. (My review In part, it added the necessary background to Charlie to show part of the reason he’s going to follow Wren, rather than decide his own dreams. I think Wren’s not understanding Starrla further illustrated the huge socioeconomic divide between Wren and Charlie. I would love to see a book from Starrla’s point of view. I think her view of Charlie and Wren may be quite different from how they view themselves.

    All in all, I enjoyed this book very much, even if part of me kept saying “sex in a ditch? how this that sexy? what about when the serial killer comes by?”

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