Review: A Sense of the Infinite

Smith A sense of the infinite

Title: A Sense of the Infinite

Author: Hilary T. Smith

Published: May 19, 2015

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

By the author of the critically acclaimed Wild Awake, a beautiful coming-of-age story about deep friendship, the weight of secrets, and the healing power of nature.

It’s senior year of high school, and Annabeth is ready—ready for everything she and her best friend, Noe, have been planning and dreaming. But there are some things Annabeth isn’t prepared for, like the constant presence of Noe’s new boyfriend. Like how her relationship with her mom is wearing and fraying. And like the way the secret she’s been keeping hidden deep inside her for years has started clawing at her insides, making it hard to eat or even breathe.

But most especially, she isn’t prepared to lose Noe.

For years, Noe has anchored Annabeth and set their joint path. Now Noe is drifting in another direction, making new plans and dreams that don’t involve Annabeth. Without Noe’s constant companionship, Annabeth’s world begins to crumble. But as a chain of events pulls Annabeth further and further away from Noe, she finds herself closer and closer to discovering who she’s really meant to be—with her best friend or without.

Hilary T. Smith’s second novel is a gorgeously written meditation on identity, loss, and the bonds of friendship.

This is a quiet and thoughtful book. In some ways, a lot of things happen, but in other ways, not a lot happens. What I mean is, there’s a lot of introspection, of shared glances and little jokes, being ignored and being on your own – little moments that mean something, sometimes something significant, but aren’t necessarily major events in terms of plot. Mostly this book is about Annabeth’s growth as a character, as her friendship with her best friend Noe deteriorates and as she slowly opens up to other people and experiences.

A Sense of the Infinite incorporates a variety of issues, including eating disorders, rape, abortion, and depression, but not in a heavy way, not in a way that makes it feel like an Issue Novel or a Problem of the Week Book. It just feels like it’s about real life and complex people, and these issues are naturally a part of their character or backstory or circumstances.

I liked the friendship that developed between Annabeth and Steven. When I first read that Noe’s new boyfriend, a constant presence, was changing Noe and Annabeth’s friendship, I thought that was going to go in a completely direction. I expected to dislike Steven, to resent his presence and interference. I thought it was going to involve a girl who ditches her friend and spends all her time with her boyfriend, but that was not the case. I actually liked the character of Steven a lot – in fact, much more than Noe.

I loved how certain lines said so much. One example is “I believe you owe me a pizza” – if you’ve read the book, you know that line spoken to the nutritionist has a lot of significance, but it’s not spelled out. It’s just there and then the chapter ends, and it leaves you thinking about what that means. So many times a chapter ended on a powerful line or two.

In fact, the writing was easy to read yet powerful. Even though it was 400 pages, I whipped through it in a couple days. Smith’s writing is emotional, beautiful, and poignant. I’ll just end this with some quotes, because there were a lot that resonated with me in one way or another.

Favourite Quotes:

“‘Everything’s happening!’ we said over and over, until it turned into a magic spell, an incantation, sweeping us out of Noe’s bedroom and into the great rushing hugeness of the rest of our lives.”

“It felt like the day had already lasted a hundred years. I wanted to talk to myself some more; to attend to those quiet inner stirrings that didn’t happen every day. I wasn’t ready to turn outward, to engage.”

“It was hard to switch from being deep in my head to talking on the phone, to vocalizing. Words felt clunky and crude, like using wooden blocks to communicate.”

“Were we even still ourselves back then, or had we already changed into these other people? Did we really mean it, or were we playing out our old rituals one last time, as a kindness, or a half-life, the way that light from a dying star continues to reach the earth for years after the star has burned out?”

“People are like trees. They need one kind of food when they’re seedlings, and a different kind of food once they’ve been growing for a few years. Maybe you and Noe needed each other in ninth grade in a way you don’t need each other now.”

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