Infinite In Between, by Carolyn Mackler


2 Stars

The Breakfast Club meets Boyhood in this striking young adult novel from Printz Honor author Carolyn Mackler, which chronicles the lives of five teenagers through the thrills, heartbreaks, and joys of their four years in high school.

Zoe, Jake, Mia, Gregor, and Whitney meet at freshman orientation. At the end of that first day, they make a promise to reunite after graduation. But so much can happen in those in-between years. . . .

Zoe fears she will always be in her famous mother’s shadow. Jake struggles to find the right connections in friendship and in love. Mia keeps trying on new identities, looking for one that actually fits. Gregor thought he wanted to be more than just a band geek. And Whitney seems to have it all, until it’s all falling apart around her.

Carolyn Mackler skillfully brings the stories of these five disparate teens together to create a distinct and cohesive whole—a novel about how we can all affect one another’s lives in the most unexpected and amazing ways. Infinite in Between received four starred reviews, was listed on several best books of the year lists, and is perfect for fans of books by Jandy Nelson, Sara Zarr, and E. Lockhart.

I’m afraid Infinite In Between is another example of a good concept being poorly executed. The book is nearly 500 pages long, but nothing actually happens. Here, let me explain.

The basic plot follows the 5 teens meeting at a freshman orientation, where they write themselves letters and promise to meet again at graduation and open the letters they wrote. After that, they story takes us through the lives of the teens, from freshman year to senior year. It’s a heavily character-driven concept, yet none of the characters particularly stand out or have a purpose in driving the message of the story.

Honestly, I think Mackler took on more than she could handle. Describing 4 years of high school through 5 POVs is ambitious and increasingly difficult, since the character development has to be realistic and actually present. Characters should not be used as plot devices to more along the story, which is exactly where this book does badly. There are instances in which some pretty awkward moments are created in order to connect the characters and get the year or summer over with. Some examples would be when Whitney acquires pneumonia and how Mia and Jake meet. These issues/events are described so quickly and carelessly, and somehow they are never brought up in the story again. It felt like the author was just putting in filler, which shouldn’t happen.

4 years allows for tons of character development, but there is no real characterization to begin with. Gregor’s and his life mostly revolves around his massive infatuation/crush with Whitney and his precious cello. He didn’t have much of a personality, and his “development” was stagnant until his father’s death. Jake’s story is mostly about him being gay, and his best friend/boyfriend Teddy. While Jake was likable and nice, his personality was still lacking. Zoe is forced to move to Arizona from LA due to a recent scandal between her and her alcoholic celebrity mom. Personally, I thought her story had too much wasted potential. Her advances toward understanding and loving her mother were interesting, but her narrative was boring. Mia’s character was really… weird. I honestly couldn’t figure her out, because everything was moving so quickly. Interestingly enough, I found her story the most enjoyable and least enjoyable simultaneously. Whitney is a popular, well-liked girl who was probably my favorite of all the characters. Her personality was vibrant and progressed consistently throughout the book, and THINGS ACTUALLY HAPPENED. WHAT.

Overall, I think this book would have been better if there were less POVs, told in 1st person. That way, the characters have more time to come alive and put their input in to drive the message of their story, without having to bump into someone else’s. I would not recommend Infinite In Between for anyone looking for character-driven stories similar to the likes of The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and others. I wouldn’t even recommend it for anyone who wants brain candy.