At last! A YA book about teenage courtship that doesn’t gloss over the sex part. In THE INFINITE MOMENT OF US, author Lauren Myracle’s young lovers revel in discovering each other’s minds, hearts and bodies.
Wren Gray has lived her life according to her parents’ wishes. She excels in school, volunteers for the hospital and has agreed not to date in high school to minimize the risk of distraction from more important things, like school and volunteering. In exchange for postponing romance, Wren’s parents have promised to buy her a car for graduation. She can’t help but feel a little icky about this deal, but who is she to argue with a car?
"Myracle manages to convey all of the breathless excitement and anxious insecurity of first love...As Wren and Charlie fumble through their first serious romantic relationship, their glories and their downfalls feel real."
Charlie Parker (no relation of the jazz musician) grew up in foster care, moving from house to house and has finally found a family that loves him. He helps his new father in his woodworking shop and adores and protects his foster brother, who is sometimes bullied for being in a wheelchair. As much as Charlie loves his new foster parents, he can’t quite bring himself to call them mom and dad, and they understand. Charlie thinks Wren Gray is beautiful and intelligent and so unlike the people with whom he has grown up. She would never look twice at someone like him.
But a glance exchanged across a parking lot on graduation day might change all of this, especially given the opportunity of a post-graduation party at their wealthy classmate’s house. Wren has not been immune to Charlie’s charms throughout their years of shared classes, and she is thrilled when he approaches her. They leave the party to walk in a park under the starlight, and thus their summer romance begins.
The hitch in their love affair is its built-in expiration date. In the fall, Charlie will leave for college at Georgia Tech. Wren will hop a plane to Guatemala to do a gap year volunteering with Project Unity, a sort of Peace Corps for recent high school graduates. (She has deferred her acceptance to Emory’s pre-med program. She hasn’t had the heart to tell her parents yet.) As Wren and Charlie fall deeper in love, they begin to imagine a shared future together and grapple with the question of how best to share it when life seems to mandate geographical separation.
Myracle manages to convey all of the breathless excitement and anxious insecurity of first love. She does this all within a framework that might suggest a “good girl falls for a boy from the wrong side of the tracks” cliché, but sidesteps this trope completely. Charlie is a sweet young man who has been placed in a supportive foster home. He looks out for his disabled foster brother, takes pride in the work he does in his father’s shop and is intent pleasing Wren and making sure she feels comfortable. He has baggage left over from his on-and-off relationship with Starrla, a girl with a troubled past who still tries to ensnare him in the webs of manipulations she uses to feel less lost. Starrla never had the emotional stability to love Charlie, so Wren’s affections surprise him in the best way possible.
Wren is not the helpless, naïve heroine who too often crops up in romance novels. She has already begun to reject her parents’ control when she defers her admission to Emory and gained admittance to Project Unity. Her romantic and sexual explorations with Charlie are just one more aspect of her taking control of her own life and enjoying the results of her decisions, not the frustration they cause her parents. Charlie doesn’t save Wren. Wren doesn’t save Charlie. They just find each other and build in their relationship something that they both want.
The book opens with a note from Myracle, explaining her motivations for writing this love story the way that she does. She says that she hopes to explore the intimacy that comes with love and the vulnerability required for intimacy. To do this most honestly, when writing about characters who are 18 years old, sex is often part of the equation. This book does contain many passages that describe Wren and Charlie’s love-making in a fair amount of detail. Myracle does an excellent job of portraying sex as fun and playful, free of any moral or religious hang-ups. Wren is a little nervous about making her sexual debut, but she also really, really wants to do it. She and Charlie have a frank conversation about protection and each communicates with the other. The only less ideal moment comes when Wren’s best friend, Tessa, gives Charlie some generalized gender normative sex advice, but it is somewhat redeemed by the fact that Tessa acknowledges that this is not necessarily what everyone would tell you.
Sure, Wren can be a little needy and Charlie can be a little naïve about the intentions of his ex, but aren’t we all needy and naïve at times? As Wren and Charlie fumble through their first serious romantic relationship, their glories and their downfalls feel real.
Lauren Myracle has garnered critical acclaim for her other books, including SHINE, which was almost a National Book Award finalist in 2011. Her books are hugely popular among tweens, teens and twenty-somethings, and THE INFINITE MOMENT OF US is another impressive entry in her body of work.
Reviewed by Caroline Osborn on July 22, 2013