Title: When We Were Infinite
Author: Kelly Loy Gilbert
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pub Date: 03/09/21
Genre: YA Contemporary
Edition: ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy)
From award-winning author Kelly Loy Gilbert comes a powerful, achingly romantic drama about the secrets we keep, from each other and from ourselves, perfect for fans of Permanent Record and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter.
All Beth wants is for her tight-knit circle of friends—Grace Nakamura, Brandon Lin, Sunny Chen, and Jason Tsou—to stay together. With her family splintered and her future a question mark, these friends are all she has—even if she sometimes wonders if she truly fits in with them. Besides, she’s certain she’ll never be able to tell Jason how she really feels about him, so friendship will have to be enough.
Then Beth witnesses a private act of violence in Jason’s home, and the whole group is shaken. Beth and her friends make a pact to do whatever it takes to protect Jason, no matter the sacrifice. But when even their fierce loyalty isn’t enough to stop Jason from making a life-altering choice, Beth must decide how far she’s willing to go for him—and how much of herself she’s willing to give up.
*See bottom of post for some content warnings*
When We Were Infinite is the kind of book that deserves to make a lot of noise about itself. On a writing level, it’s spectacular. But even more so, the close look we get at the dynamics of one friend group and the girl trying to keep them all together is genius, empathetic, and searing.
The whole book had a foreboding feel to it, and even when the worst happened, I was sure there was going to be more. I think I was in a perpetual state of sadness while reading this book. Around 50% in, I got a crumb of happiness, but it didn’t last very long. I love books that hurt though, so When We Were Infinite was right down my alley.
I loved reading a book with an all Asian American ensemble, and I liked the way it explored how Beth’s biracial identity impacted the way she felt among her friends. Also the musical aspect of the book was great as I found the way Beth felt about and described music to be fascinating. Her changing connection to it over the course of the book also showed her mental state well.
As someone who had a friend my senior year of high school successfully make the life-altering choice Jason made, I understood Beth on a different level. I could only imagine the kind of feelings the friends had after that scenario and for someone who needed control and to have her found family stay her family, Beth became less and less because she gave more and more. She sacrificed so much because she thought she had to, and it was heartbreaking.
I liked Sunny from the beginning, but toward the end, what she was willing to do for Beth actually made me start crying. No matter what mistakes she might have made during the book, she’s a real one for real and my favorite character. I also loved how the book didn’t stop at high school and we got to see more of the character’s lives. This book really showed how trauma can affect people differently, and I really appreciated how it ended.
I would highly recommend When We Were Infinite if you want to see the effects of (generational) trauma in teens, changing dynamics in friend groups, and ultimate self-sacrifice.
*Thank you to Simon Teen for the ARC. All opinions are my own*
Where to Buy
Kelly Loy Gilbert believes deeply in the power of stories to illuminate a shared humanity and give voice to complex, broken people. She is the author of Conviction, a William C. Morris Award finalist, and Picture Us in the Light, and lives in the SF Bay Area. She would be thrilled to hear from you on Twitter @KellyLoyGilbert or at KellyLoyGilbert.com.
|Monday, March 1||Bookish Ends|
|Tuesday, March 2||From The Library of Alexis|
|Wednesday, March 3||The Book Bratz|
|Thursday, March 4||Between the Shelves|
|Friday, March 5||eleven thirteen pm|
|Monday, March 8||Fangirl Fury|
|Tuesday, March 9||Vicky Again|
|Wednesday, March 10||Forever and Everly|
|Thursday, March 11||Drizzle and Hurricane Books|
|Friday, March 12||Starlight Strands|
These are just the main ones that come to mind for me: child abuse, mention of suicide attempt, panic attacks