The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen (The Bright Sessions #1)
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Available For Pre-Order Through The Book Depository: The Infinite Noise
Summary: Caleb Michaels is a sixteen-year-old champion running back. Other than that his life is pretty normal. But when Caleb starts experiencing mood swings that are out of the ordinary for even a teenager, his life moves beyond “typical.”
Caleb is an Atypical, an individual with enhanced abilities. Which sounds pretty cool except Caleb’s ability is extreme empathy—he feels the emotions of everyone around him. Being an empath in high school would be hard enough, but Caleb’s life becomes even more complicated when he keeps getting pulled into the emotional orbit of one of his classmates, Adam. Adam’s feelings are big and all-consuming, but they fit together with Caleb’s feelings in a way that he can’t quite understand.
Caleb’s therapist, Dr. Bright, encourages Caleb to explore this connection by befriending Adam. As he and Adam grow closer, Caleb learns more about his ability, himself, his therapist—who seems to know a lot more than she lets on—and just how dangerous being an Atypical can be.
*Relieved ARC via a book festival* *TW: brief mentions of self-harm & past attempts, bullying, & internal discussion of Depression*
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: The Infinite Noise is an introspective and character-driven debut based on the fiction podcast, The Bright Sessions! Serving as both a companion for fans of the podcast and introduction, this YA Contemporary/Sci-fi debut sends readers on a deep and layered journey following the perspective of Caleb, star football player with the unique power of extreme empathy and Adam, a lonely classmate who helps Caleb find anchor in the rough wave of high school emotions! The Infinite Noise for fans of the podcast is no doubt an absolute treat, while offering moments of both joy & nostalgia being able to revisit two beloved characters from The Bright Sessions universe!
I originally started listening to The Bright Sessions podcast back in 2016 and it instantly became one of my favorites!
It was one of the earliest audio drama podcasts I’d ever heard and throughout the series, Shippen has put such care in her discussion/exploration of mental health and positive representation of therapy! In addition, her both moving + relatable storytelling, deeply complex cast of characters, and inspiring messages have stuck with me since I first started listening.
As a long-time listener of the podcast, I was beyond excited when Shippen’s book deal was first announced! Her storytelling is phenomenal and because I love these characters so so much, I was really looking forward to seeing how she’d expand on their stories in book form!
I adore the main characters Caleb Michaels and Adam Hayes in the podcast, they are the sweetest m/m couple I’ve ever encountered and getting to revisit them & their stories again in book form just left me turning page after page. Their also one of the fan-favorite couples of the series!
Shippen really knows her characters (especially in a first-person perspective) so getting to fully immerse myself into their inner thoughts didn’t feel like such a rehash of the podcast. I truly felt I learned more about these characters from a completely different perspective and I really appreciated that.
In this review I’m going to try and speak from a book perspective and leave more of my podcast-related thoughts near the end!
So, Caleb Michaels is a football player for his high school and from his very first few chapters its clear there’s something unique about him! As it turns out he has extreme empathy, which means not only can he sense the emotions of everyone around him, but he can take on those emotions too and in a way, amplifies them!
Having powers or supernatural abilities like this makes Caleb an Atypical!
Adam Hayes is a bit of an outcast, he’s quiet and doesn’t have many friends. He struggles with depression and throughout his perspective you see how it makes him feel disconnected from the world, feeling incredibly isolated and lonely.
As Caleb begins seeing Dr. Bright, a therapist for strange and unusual people like himself, she recommends he get to know Adam when they delve more into his ability and how he stopped one of his teammates from bullying Adam.
We get a deeper dive & different perspective into Caleb’s empath ability through the descriptions of color + comparison of nature to relate back to the impact of emotions that he feels.
Caleb and Adam have a slow and steady friendship that clearly develops into more over the course of this novel! Shippen incredibly weaves in the emotion, voice, and heart of these characters in such a deep and relatable way that really highlight all the complex, powerful, and distinct feelings associated with high school!
Throughout the novel, we get glimpses into all these different aspects of both Caleb and Adam’s lives and deep into their subconscious as well. Together, The Infinite Noise delivers such a balanced and relatable view as it explores family dynamics, friendship, love, and mental health.
Adam is dealing with depression and the representation of it is something directly explored and addressed throughout the novel. When both Caleb & Adam are together, Shippen doesn’t ignore the depth of those emotions and how they make Caleb feel as well (though it can be intense, he accepts those emotions and gives Adam his time when necessary).
Similar to that of the show, I feel Shippen also highlights the importance of mental health, taking care of yourself, and brings layers and depth to that exploration in such relatable ways. Both the podcast and novel explore it a bit differently, but without a doubt its an important developed layer of the story!
From Adam’s perspective, he’s not sure what to make of Caleb. He later makes it clear he’s had a crush on him, but feels that their daily lunch hangouts together are a bit suspicious. He’s confused as to why a popular jock would want to hang out with him, but as they talk more and more, both Adam and Caleb begin to develop a special relationship!
Caleb finds himself falling for Adam too and the way Shippen develops it felt like such a steady progression, where we got to know both of them fully and how their relationship allows them to bring out the best in each other, by keeping each other green!! (its a podcast reference 😂💚)
Also, can I just say that Adam’s playlist for Caleb, their fun lunch hangouts and general moments together were the sweetest!! 💞
What is highlighted especially in The Infinite Noise that I never really gave much thought about in The Bright Sessions, was how this novel puts a focus on the connections between people and how the abilities give ways for Atypicals to connect with people in the most unlikely of ways!
However, looming over Caleb’s head are his empath powers, which he has to keep secret. With Caleb feeling in sync with Adam and Adam finding that happiness whenever he’s with Caleb, he also can’t help but feel steps behind him and can’t seem to figure out why.
Over the course of The Infinite Noise, Caleb and Adam’s relationship really cements itself in the novel alongside brewing mysteries and government conspiracies!
I’ve followed the podcast for years and learned more about Lauren’s inspirations behind TBS and her characters (with certain one’s based on different parts of herself). With that said, you can see how this novel really is a reflection on those emotions/experiences of high school and I really resonated with that.
I will say from both a book and podcast perspective, Lauren Shippen is an absolute genius when it comes to her characters and their development. Not only is every single one relatable in some sort of way, but their journeys develop in a way that leave you surprised but also leave you fascinated as to what happens next and why!
It also wasn’t until I read this book that I found this important theme also connected to the podcast, which is that of understanding, especially when it comes to one’s own emotions, and the connections we have with the people around us + why they are important!
The Infinite Noise highlights that incredibly well as we dive deep into the thoughts of Caleb and Adam!
Now onto my podcast-related thoughts:
I can’t put into words how my heart felt so connected with my soft, sweet boys Caleb and Adam again! Having already known the direction of their relationship I was just along for the ride, but loving every moment of it.
Because I already knew so much of them from the podcast, I loved being able to just appreciate the deeper introspective side to these characters & their high school journey, which are elements we never really get to explore in the show (especially Adam’s POV).
Though I love all the characters in the podcast, one of my favorites has to be Damien! I’ll tell you I legit screamed when he showed up, it was so fun to see his cameo in the book and getting Adam’s thoughts on him was the best 😂 I’m not lying when I say I’m really looking forward to his book & learning more about his past at 18! If you’ve listened to the show, you know what a clever and fascinating antagonist he is!! 😆🎉
It was brilliant how Shippen weaved podcast moments into the novel in an unexpected way for the fans, even the important plot-specific moments that non-listeners wont really pick up on (Mark, The AM, Frank, Chloe & Adam’s aunt, though her character was left pretty hidden/vague).
What I also found interesting was getting this limited perspective through Caleb on what we (the audience) already know about Atypicals, The AM, etc. because we already get all that background through the podcast! So, it was nice to get a different view on how an Atypical would think about this other world alongside ours.
As mentioned in my interview, Shippen and I talked about the Canon of both the book and podcast. Though she said that this book does delve into certain specifics and expand on certain moments, the podcast is the truest form of the story. So, because of that you can tell she had a lot of fun changing up the timeline and it was interesting getting to read certain podcast lines at different sections of the story, giving them completely different contexts.
As mentioned in the show as well is the discussion of labels! Caleb is an example of that― he really loves Adam, but even in The Bright Sessions, he’s not entirely sure he fits into a specific label and I feel discussions like that are so important and valid because throughout life, you can’t always put an exact label on things! It was great to see that explored in the novel itself too 💞
As for the diversity of this novel, we have Adam who is Gay, biracial & Jewish, members of Adam’s family are dark-skinned, and an m/m relationship!
Now onto my critiques: Because I really love the TBS universe I would have loved to get a little more of that world woven into this book somehow, but overall it was fun to see how those elements developed through Caleb & Adam!
While the writing was strong in terms of the characters, there were detailed moments that because I’m very familiar with YA I felt taken out of the TBS world for a bit, also for me personally I found book-specific world building could been developed a bit more.
As I followed Caleb and Adam’s relationship, I realized just how strong Shippen’s writing is in terms of developing that deep emotion in ways that felt different than the podcast, but wholly familiar! Shippen just has a unique way of exploring her characters and I loved how that translated in the book.
The Infinite Noise delves into a different perspective of The Bright Sessions podcast and is a fun read for long-time listeners! Shippen puts a focus on her characters as we follow Caleb, Adam, and their relationship! Merging sci-fi contemporary, mental health, and introspective characters, The Infinite Noise is a story that delivers the relatable theme that no matter how powerful outside forces may impact you, you have the power to determine how they influence you and who you choose to be!
Today I’ll also be shouting-out a fellow book blogger’s review 😍📚🎉
As a longtime listener of the podcast, Gail goes into the depth of Caleb, Adam, and how their relationship develops organically!
Also, this is something I ABSOLUTELY AGREE with, is that Gail mentions how Lauren really understands and portrays the teenage experience! That’s something also seen through her college-aged/adult characters as well, where no matter who they are you can tell she’s portraying such an authentic character alongside their experiences!
Melding both a book and podcast perspective I recommend checking out Gail’s review as well! 🎉💚📚