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Empathy and Kindness Highlight the Depiction of Mentally Ill Teens in Lauren Shippen’s The Infinite Noise

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Mental illness is not something that is new in YA, but as more people become informed and educated on the subject, we have been able to get even more works that focus on mental illness without just using it as misguided shorthand for being a bad person. Lauren Shippen’s novel The Infinite Noise is one of those works, an empathic piece of young adult literature that blends shades of X-Men with a fresh LGBTQ character focus. Fitting since Shippen is part of the Marvel family now, as the writer of the Marvels podcast, coming soon to Stitcher!

Here’s what readers can expect from Shippen’s debut novel, The Infinite Noise:

Caleb Michaels is a sixteen-year-old champion running back. Other than that his life is pretty normal. But when Caleb starts experiencing mood swings that are out of the ordinary for even a teenager, his life moves beyond “typical.”

Caleb is an Atypical, an individual with enhanced abilities. Which sounds pretty cool except Caleb’s ability is extreme empathy—he feels the emotions of everyone around him. Being an empath in high school would be hard enough, but Caleb’s life becomes even more complicated when he keeps getting pulled into the emotional orbit of one of his classmates, Adam. Adam’s feelings are big and all-consuming, but they fit together with Caleb’s feelings in a way that he can’t quite understand.

Caleb’s therapist, Dr. Bright, encourages Caleb to explore this connection by befriending Adam. As he and Adam grow closer, Caleb learns more about his ability, himself, his therapist—who seems to know a lot more than she lets on—and just how dangerous being an Atypical can be.

I had the absolute pleasure to sit with Lauren Shippen as part of the NYCC 2019 panel “Putting It All Out There: SFF and Mental Health,” also featuring authors Shaun Hamill (A Cosmology of Monsters), Lauren Shippen (The Infinite Noise), and Stephen Graham Jones (The Only Good Indians), and moderated by yours truly.

During the panel Shippen said something that I think perfectly highlights why The Infinite Noise is so important, “I really wanted to create a narrative where it wasn’t about that clean solution, and also writing a romance where getting together with somebody isn’t going to solve your problems.” An empathetic romance where love is just another part of the journey, not just a fix.

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The Infinite Noise is out now!

(image: Tor Teen)

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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.