“Infinite in Between will leave you aching for all the changes that come in high school, and grateful to the true-blue friends who get you through.”
– Katie Cotugno, bestselling author of 99 Days and How to Live
I ache for that final summer night before my first day of high school. I ache for the possibility of it all being great. Of life making more sense than it ever had before. I ache for the romance of it. The way you fell in love with the idea of love. Your eyes followed that lustful boy down the hall and bored into his hand as he tangled his fingers with that girl you were always so jealous of.
This book made me ache in a way I cannot describe. It made me ache for youth, for excusable mistakes, for a great journey coming to an end in an explosive way.
Infinite in Between follows five high school kids as they navigate their four short, but equally infinite years at Hankinson High completely apart but secretly together.
I had a rough time with the writing style at first. Because the book follows five separate stories over four years, the chapters were short, the seasons changed fast, and big things and small things basically claimed the same amount of real estate.
At first, I really didn’t like the book. It seemed very cliché to me. You have Zoe, a famous actress’s daughter, Gregor, a band geek hopelessly in love with Whitney, the gorgeous popular girl, Jake, the resident gay guy, and Mia, the nerdy outcast with pink hair and fishnets.
It seemed hopeless to me at first. Hopeless and mundane, tired and overdone, exhausted of its newness, grasping for a fresh breath of air. Plus the switching view points gave me whiplash.
But then, somewhere along the way, I fell madly in love with this group of characters.
Maybe it was because freshman year is hopeless at first. It’s dull. It lacks the luster of your imagination gone wild. And it brings with it an extreme sense of smallness.
Maybe that was the point. Maybe that was why this book fell flat for me in the beginning. Why it carried the burden of been there, done that. Because you dream in clichés. Who are you if you don’t?
The writing was simple through and through. There was never a moment where the plot was jeopardized for a pretty line, or a character cast into unreality for a heart-stopping act of heroism. In fact, it was all very real.
Zoe’s character surprised me the most. I expected a lot of her, and I’m happy to report my expectations were not met. She fell so far from the famous daughter’s mold. So far and so extremely.
As fast and fleetingly as most of the moments came, I still feel them lingering. I wanted to hold onto each one way longer than I was supposed to. I wanted to wrap my arms around a page and fall into one person’s story, but Carolyn Mackler didn’t allow for me to ever get too comfortable. She didn’t keep me anywhere for long enough. And I think that’s the big thing. That’s the theme. This idea that high school is fleeting, and only your small big moments will remind you that were there at all. Because once you leave, it’s hard to believe that that was once your life. It’s hard to look back and remember how careless you approached the whole thing. And why you didn’t hold on for dear life.
No, high school isn’t this glamorous coming of age story. It isn’t easy. It doesn’t fly by. But it does end. And with it, a sense of finality hits you. Youth, however difficult and demanding, is something we can only understand once we’ve lost our hold on it.
As the years flew by, and our dashing characters grew up, the language changed. The way they behaved changed. Relationships crashed and burned, cuss words began spilling from curious mouths, hands began to explore far past their unknown boundaries, and everything started to make itself obvious.
That’s the thing about high school. It doesn’t age you enchantingly. It pulls the ugliness out of you. It forces you to recognize the impact of who you’ve been. It forces you out of your mold so you can find your way out of its web. And I thought this book, its pacing, its miraculous changes of heart and indifferences, were a great testament to time. A great testament to how all our stories seem to intertwine, even in just the smallest of ways.
She gave us so much in so little.
Gregor watched Ava’s legs, smooth and thin, and her flip-flops slapping against the stairs.
I don’t know why this line, of all the lines, had me pausing, but it did. I can remember slapping my way down my high school stairs into senior hall. And slapping my way into the bathroom, into the cafeteria, into the guidance counselor’s office. It was this moment where I first realized Carolyn Mackler really understood high school.
And this one:
… Sophie said the next night as she was washing her face with her acne soap.
I can smell that acne soap. Feel the tiny exfoliating beads. Hate my friends for having skin profoundly clearer than my own.
At six forty-five in the morning, the world was quiet and gray, like driving through a fallen cloud.
I remember that drive. I remember waking up right when I was supposed to for the first time in a while and getting to meander in my Ford Escape mindfully, taking in the beauty of morning when you’re not in such a god damn rush. I remember the chill of the air, and how it was bearable. The slight breeze, the way the trees shivered and the spring’s fading ice crushed between my Uggs.
It just put there, that quickly. I saw the sun rising over the mountains, my hands flexing on the steering wheel as warm air pushed its way through my vents. I saw it all.
Because when you have to burn through four years and five stories in under 500 hundred pages, you have to give a lot in very little.
One of the most curious things to me about the book that I’m still trying to form an opinion about, is every single main girl character seemed to have a nervous tick that had to do with her toenail polish. I can’t decide if the author did this because she wanted us to see that the characters–while seeming to be so different–weren’t really that different at all. Or if it was the fault of trying to keep five stories separate when there’s only one storyteller.
My favorite moment came at the very end of the book. It was a laugh-out-loud, thank god we can laugh about this now, sort of moment. And it came at just the right time, when tragedy was striking all around, but it was striking at midnight.
Their senior prom came, nobody seemed to be together, in fact everything was falling apart, and the theme was, ironically, “My Heart Will Go On,” an ode to the Titanic.
Gregor was sitting at his table by the lifeboats, picking at a dinner roll and thinking about how the shipwreck theme was demented. More than fifteen hundred people died when the Titanic sunk. It was like having a 9/11 prom.
I couldn’t help thinking, as I burst out laughing, how so very perfect that theme seemed to be for the very end of high school, when everybody is scrambling for their purpose and trying to end everything with the bang they imagined that final night of summer before their big first day.
I can’t help thinking how very perfect this book was.