Life is made of moments and transitions. Some big, some small, all adding up to the experience of being human. Falling in love for the first time is one of the enormous, yet often quiet, moments that can change one's life course.
The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle opens with these lines: "It was the ending: high school. It was the beginning: everything that came next." Taking place during the summer after high school graduation, this novel for young adults is written in alternating points of view and tells the love story of privileged only child Wren, and Charlie, a boy living with a loving foster family. They've known each other casually throughout high school, but, in the mysterious way of attraction and love, a sudden connection is made on the last day of school.
The novel takes us from that initial spark of connection through coincidental bumping into each other to taking action, dating, falling in love, finding ways to express that love, and wrestling with the fact that they are each headed in different directions at the end of the summer. It's a simple plot. And yet, scene by scene, the story is compelling and provocative. They do things, go places, and have big thoughts. Hearing from each character as they navigate their relationship adds a deeper dimension to what each one is feeling and experiencing in the moment. It allows the reader a more intimate view of falling in love. Both Wren and Charlie have their own lives, thoughts, and insecurities as they try to navigate this new experience of intimacy.
Wren has always done exactly what her parents expected of her. She's worked hard in school and stayed out of trouble. In fact, she's never even had a boyfriend, because her father asked her to wait until she was done with high school. Upon graduation, her reward for this restraint is a carwhich later, ironically, allows for more physical intimacy with Charlie. However, she has a secret from her parents. She has declined her acceptance to a prestigious college and made plans to volunteer for a Peace Corps-like organization in Guatemala. Throughout this story, readers see Wren wrestle between choosing her own future and risking making her parents unhappy for the first time. In addition to the new relationship with Charlie, we see her stepping out and taking new risks with her best friend, Tessa, as well. Despite her dislike of guns, Wren visits a shooting range with Tessa.
Charlie is headed to the nearby state college. Although he is haunted by painful memories of his neglectful mother and unpleasant foster families, he is currently in a good place with foster parents who are short on cash, but have plenty of love. Charlie feels obligated to contribute whatever he can to be a part of the family and works at his foster father's woodworking shop while helping care for his handicapped foster brother, Dev. He's also greatly conflicted when he knows his troubled ex-girlfriend Starrla is hurting. Charlie's new relationship with Wren allows him to gain self-respect and a sense of worth, to make choices that are best for him.
The idea that Wren and Charlie come from different economic classes is lightly woven through, in a subtle and easy manner. Understanding their varied experiences is mostly just another facet of getting to know each other and learning to understand the choices each one makes.
Because Wren and Charlie are young and learning the ins and outs of intimacy and honestythe risk of being open and vulnerable; they have misunderstandings and conflicts along the way. Each one wrestles with moments of uncertainty and jealousy. Of not knowing what to say and how to act. An underlying and building tension is that each one has options - to change individual plans so they can be together instead of heading off to separate futures. Starrla, Charlie's ex-girlfriend, also provides an external conflict leading to a tumultuous climax.
In addition to the emotional growth of their relationship, Wren and Charlie get physical. As young people bursting with hormones and love, they choose to have sex. Lots of sex. Myracle doesn't shy away from the details. We hear about the experiences up close and personal and from both points of view. And yet, it is never gratuitous or simply titillating. It is about connecting with another human being in an honest, and sometimes messy way. When Wren thinks about her body's reaction to Charlie, " she didn't want to be embarrassed It was bodies being bodies."
As true to life as their story is, Wren and Charlie are a bit of an ideal example of how two responsible teens should behave. Prior to having sex, they discuss it maturely, including plans for birth control and Charlie is tested for STDs. He also consults Tessa for advice in order to ensure he can make Wren comfortable and have everything about their first special night as perfect as possible. These were moments I felt the adult author peeking in, giving gentle advice to teen readers.
Even when they each make mistakes, it seems as though they react how they should. For instance, when Wren gets caught up in a momentand buzzed with alcoholshe sends Charlie a provocative photo of her breasts and then agonizes over the consequences of this act. Although her reaction is true to her previously conservative behavior, it also felt a bit like a warning from a well-meaning adult. And when Charlie isn't completely honest about his complicated relationship with his ex-girlfriendhe ends up coming straight with Wren. Which is right and admirable, but maybe just a little too much so. Or, perhaps he does so a little too easily.
Because Wren and Charlie are each so endearing in their earnest love and passion for one another; and because it's easy to fall a little in love with each of them, we root for them to be together in the end.
Due to honest and graphic details, it is likely that this book may be challenged or banned by adults concerned about exposing young people to the truths about sex. I encourage them to remember that being curious and ready to read about sex is not the same thing as doing it. Knowledge leads to confidence and well-informed decisions. All in all, this story sets a high standard and level of expectation as to how a first love and first sexual experience might go. Aside from considering moral or religious implications, for teens trying to gain a better understanding as to how it all works, this book sets a wonderful blueprint.
During their first time making love Wren thinks, "Why wasn't there a guidebook for this stuff?" This book might just be it.
This review was originally published in October 2013, and has been updated for the August 2014 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
Discover your next great read here
The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it
Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!
Solve this clue:
and be entered to win..
Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.
Your guide toexceptional books
BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.