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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review: The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle

For as long as she can remember, Wren Gray’s goal has been to please her parents. But as high school graduation nears, so does an uncomfortable realization: Pleasing her parents once overlapped with pleasing herself, but now... not so much. Wren needs to honor her own desires, but how can she if she doesn’t even know what they are?

Charlie Parker, on the other hand, is painfully aware of his heart’s desire. A gentle boy with a troubled past, Charlie has loved Wren since the day he first saw her. But a girl like Wren would never fall for a guy like Charlie—at least not the sort of guy Charlie believes himself to be.

And yet certain things are written in the stars. And in the summer after high school, Wren and Charlie’s souls will collide. But souls are complicated, as are the bodies that house them...

Sexy, romantic, and oh-so-true to life, this is an unforgettable look at first love from one of young adult fiction’s greatest writers.

My feelings regarding Lauren Myracle's newest novel, The Infinite Moment of Us, are conflicted. While the novel realistically portrayed aspects of the a teen life and romance, I also felt that it glossed over and simplified other important aspects of the story and I felt little connection to the novel's main characters, Wren and Charlie.

Told in alternating point-of-view, The Infinite Moment of Us introduces readers to two teens who are entering into their first serious relationship. Charlie has been interested in the reserved Wren since he's seen her around school, but it isn't until graduation that Wren really notices Charlie. After a chance meeting at the hospital, where Wren volunteers, the two chat and their interest deepens. Later, at a party, Charlie asks Wren out and their romance quickly flourishes. This is a summer of endings before Wren, Charlie, and their friends set off from their hometown to embrace whatever their futures hold, but in many ways, it's also a summer of firsts. Both Wren and Charlie are experiencing fear of leaving and disappointing their families as they venture out into the world. They're trying to figure out who they are as individuals and as a couple. And, of course, they're experiencing all-consuming, heartbreaking, life-changing love for the first time.

There are definitely good things about The Infinite Moment of Us. In many respects, it offers a realistic portrayal of a teenaged couple's first sexual experience and the thoughts that often accompany it. I found the details about sex in this novel to be refreshingly honest and frank. I never felt that Myracle went too far into detail, but I wouldn't say she ever faded to black either. It felt more like she was trying to do the emotions behind the actions and choices justice, rather than the physical aspects, and she achieved her goal.

As difficult as it was to read and stomach, I felt that Wren's jealously about Charlie and his dedication to his family was also realistically done. Charlie grew up in the foster system and saw his fair share of bad homes and foster parents, but he finally has a real, supportive family when he meets Wren. His little brother, who has been in a wheelchair for his whole life after being abused by his biological father, is often bullied at school and Charlie is extremely protective of him. As one might expect, Charlie has a strong bond with his family and is always willing to drop everything to be with them when necessary. Wren, has a difficult time accepting this. She often feels that Charlie is choosing his family over her, though she realizes that this is mostly in her head and that it is unfair and selfish of her to feel this way. While I'm no stranger to this "choosing your family over me" jealousy, I really wish it weren't used in this situation because it makes Wren looks so immature and spoiled! I could not forgive Wren for even considering making Charlie feel bad for being there for his brother, who clearly needs him much more than she does! Still, I know there are girls like this - heck, I had my selfish, spoiled days like this, just ask my high school boyfriend! - so, again, I have to applaud Myracle's realism here.

As mentioned, Myracle does bring up many different big, tough topics in this novel. Bullying, foster care, emotional damage, controlling and emotionally destructive parenting styles, etc, etc. There's a lot going on in The Infinite Moment of Us... it's actually quite ambitious. The problem is, at least for me, that it's all secondary to the romantic plot line. If you can call it that... it's actually just a lot of really sappy, over-blown "I love yous" and "Please don't leave mes." Which, again, it pretty darn realistic, but I'm not sure it's a message that I support. It'd be one thing if this relationship didn't work out or if Charlie and Wren decided to pursue their individual plans and try for long distance, but things take a nosedive. They do not keep being individuals who have happen to have dated for three months, Charlie changes his plans and decides to follow Wren. NO, NO, NO. I heartily dislike this decision. Because I have been in the same position as Wren and Charlie... I have been there and I clearly remember how I was feeling and I made the choice to follow someone else's plans and I should have stuck to my guns and followed my path. You do not follow anyone when you are eighteen and you are in your first relationship that has lasted a summer. I admit that maybe I'm a bit jaded in the love department, but I would never tell any eighteen year old I know to change their plans, even vacation plans, for a three month relationship! 

Okay, rant over, I promise! 

Unfortunately, I never felt any huge connection to Charlie and Wren. They were both a bit flat and, honestly, not very likeable, which is an issue in a novel like The Infinite Moment of Us, which is very character driven. As discussed previously, Wren is quite selfish and I didn't find her very appealing. I couldn't tell you why Charlie was so hung up on her, except that she's, apparently, attractive. The reader is told she's a fantastic person, but we never really see any evidence of this. Charlie, on the other hand, has the potential to be a compelling character, but he's too distracted by Wren and busy saying cheesy things to do anything interesting. 

In many ways, The Infinite Moment of Us reminded me of Judy Blume's Forever. So, if you're a fan of that novel, I think you'll find plenty to like here. I will give credit where it's do and say that Myracle created a very realistic situation with Wren and Charlie. My issue, however, comes from the way these characters were handled. The events in this novel could definitely happen - in fact, they're probably happening right this moment - but these characters could have been so much more! I felt like they'd already been used as an example and, in some ways, as a cautionary tale, so why not follow through and skip the rose-colored glasses in the final scene?

Amulet Books, August 2013, Hardcover, ISBN:9781419707933, 336 pgs.


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