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A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith
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A Sense of the Infinite

by Hilary T. Smith

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I thought it was about one thing but it was about so much more as well. Really enjoyed it - best part are the well-rounded characters. ( )
  olegalCA | Nov 30, 2016 |
In terms of YA books with a focus on “issues,” this book has a claim to lead the pack. It features eating disorders, gender identity conflict, consideration of suicide, bullying, teen pregnancy, rape, single parenting, warped perceptions of self-worth, and even vegetarianism and the need to ensure proper ingestion of protein. And then there is the main problem, which is growing apart from your best friend as you both come of age.

Annabeth Schultz, the narrator, is 17. She and her BFF Noe are now seniors. They have been planning “forever” how they will go to college together and be roommates, travel to Paris together, start a business together, and basically always stay best friends.

Annabeth is way more dependent on Noe’s friendship than Noe is on Annabeth’s. Annabeth doesn’t even want any other friends, and secretly worries when Noe hangs out with other girls. She confesses:

“Her friendship was a jewel I guarded like a dragon, keeping it always in the crook of my hand. I didn’t know who I would be without the shape of it pressing into my palm, without its cool glitter to light my way.”

But Annabeth’s blind devotion to Noe prevents her from seeing what should be clear: Noe doesn’t reciprocate her efforts to share each other's interests, and in fact, Noe has an agenda quite different from that of Annabeth. When Annabeth finally confronts Noe, Noe is exasperated:

“We’re not married, Annabeth. You’re being insane.”

Annabeth’s mom, a nature lover, suggests, analogously, that trees need one kind of food when they are seedlings and another when they get bigger. But still Annabeth resists the truth. The question is, will she finally accept that she and Noe are different sorts of trees now, and move on with her life?

Evaluation: I had heard good things about this author, and she does indeed show a knack for understanding the concerns and preoccupations of adolescence. But I didn’t feel too invested in this story. I didn’t like the main characters all that much, and many of the plot threads involving the various “issues” were left hanging. And while the problems themselves were serious (albeit in an upper class sort of way), it was hard for me to feel as much sympathy for these kids as I might have if they hadn’t been able to buy their way out of most of them, with no reflection on the fact that the world doesn't work that way for everyone. ( )
  nbmars | Aug 5, 2016 |
Hilary T. Smith, the author of Wild Awake, has written another book I didn’t want to put down, in A Sense of the Infinite. But it’s the subtitle, What Comes After Me and You that really defines this coming of age novel. Annabeth seems to be a personable seventeen year old. She works at the ice cream shop in the botanic garden over the summer and gets along with patrons and coworkers. However, at home she feels that Noe is her only friend, the person she can be herself with, the person who understands her totally. Noe is loving, sympathetic and will speak for her when she’s tongue tied.WildAwake But there’s more to Annabeth and more to Noe than meets the eye and as Smith describes Annabeth’s senior year in high school, this all emerges. The big question is whether Annabeth can return to being the independent, nature loving young girl she was before she met Noe in ninth grade or will she transform into the gymnastic loving girl that Noe needs her to be. A lot happens to Annabeth this year, some of it puzzling, some of it appropriate. It is Smith’s writing that draws readers in. She’s got a way with a phrase that draws a picture in your mind. You see the swirling leaves and you hear the silence of the woods. You experience Annabeth’s feelings more than you would with other authors. A Sense of the Infinite is a rewarding read. ( )
  EdGoldberg | Jun 17, 2015 |
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: A tortured friendship and far too many bottled secrets.

Opening Sentence: On the first day of Noe, the raspberries are always ripe.

The Review:

I adored this read because I felt it was unique in terms of the other books I have read of late. There is so much heartbreak and feeling that I couldn’t help but fall in love with the characters and their stories. First off, there is Annabeth, who frustrated me at the beginning with her god-like worship of Noe, but soon enough she became my favourite. I understand why she felt indebted to Noe because she was her first friend and like a saviour at a hard time in her life, but Annabeth was almost obsessed with her, which was a leeetle creepy.

Noe, on the other hand, was a horribly fickle friend and I did not care for her in the least. I knew straight away that she would cause major problems later on. I didn’t like her personality, especially when she kept implying that Anna was the one with all the problems. It was clear from the way Anna admired her that their friendship was too one-sided and wouldn’t last but even still, their broken relationship was painful to read about.

Some friendships ended all at once and some were like Athenian ships, each part slowly replaced over the years until one day, even if you had never left the deck, you couldn’t recognise it anymore. Lately when I talked to Noe I felt like one of the old people who came to the ice-cream shop year after year; even though the soul of the place had long ago drained out of it: they knew it wasn’t the same anymore, but they simply didn’t know where else to go.

Anna had problems that no teenager should have to deal with. Clearly, she depended on Noe too much but then had to learn the hard way how to be strong and rely on yourself. This story showed how difficult it is to make your own path and the pressure of having overpowering friends.

My favourite relationship was Anna and Steven’s friendship. It wasn’t romantic but oh so sweet. Both were the quirky kind of kindred spirits that it’s almost impossible to stumble upon; ‘pee sisters’ as they were. Steven is odd but sweet and I loved his sense of humour.

“Pleased to make your official acquaintance, Annabeth. Let’s be friends.”
“Okay,” I said. Then, because I felt guilty, I burst, “I didn’t mean that we weren’t already sort of friends. By association.”
“I don’t like knowing people through people,” he said evenly. “It feels too much like regurgitation.”

Reading about children/teenagers with issues like depression, haunting pasts, and bulimia is always difficult. Anna’s story was heart-breaking, especially hearing her thoughts about feeling like a monster because of something that was not her fault and that she had no control over. Anna’s fear of speaking about her past because of being judged is a huge problem that definitely needs greater awareness and I’m glad this book picked up on it. Her ability to keep things bottled up was shocking, I don’t think I could do it even though I don’t like talking about personal issues either.

“That’s different. Need some time, okay. Nobody can ever love me after this, not okay. I can’t love myself after this, not okay. Would you feel bad for meeting a cute boy if Oliver was the one having the appointment?”

Overall, a touching read told from a young girl’s perspective and covering a vast array of intriguing topics that I believe need greater awareness.

Notable Scene:

I opened my mouth again. “I know you’re going to say that plans change and you never promised anything, but it’s more than that. Sometimes I feel like our friendship is this leaky boat but nobody’s allowed to admit the boat is leaking. We just sit there with our feet getting wet, but I can’t say, Hey, my feet are wet, because you’ll throw me overboard.”

“Nobody’s throwing you overboard,” said Noe calmly. “You’re having a bad day.”

FTC Advisory: Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins provided me with a copy of A Sense of the Infinite. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. ( )
  DarkFaerieTales | Jun 6, 2015 |
This gorgeously written story is packed with issues. Depression, suicide, eating disorders, vegetarianism, abortion and rape to name just a few. It is also the story of a friendship as it changes. Annabeth has always depended on Noe to be her guide and spokesperson. But now Noe is drifting away to new friends and new interests and leaving Annabeth behind. Annabeth clings to Noe by trying to like what Noe likes despite her very different interests.

Annabeth is traumatized when she learns that she is the child of rape. She was brutally told this by a cousin when she was just thirteen. Her mother and grandmother also told her at about the same time but neither of them seem to realize how much this information altered Annabeth's perceptions of herself and of her self-worth. This information has made her quiet and shy and made her feel like she was missing something that others her age had. Noe filled some of the holes that Annabeth perceived in her life.

Now it is their senior year in high school. Noe is dating Steven who happens to be Annabeth's partner in Art class. Steven works hard to develop a friendship with Annabeth that is separate from his relationship with Noe. Steven is depresses and has attempted suicide. For him, Noe provides a sense of purpose and stability which is just fine until Noe drops him for another boy.

It is about this same time that Noe drops Annabeth as a friend when Annabeth inadvertently tells the gymnastics coach that Noe is purging. While traumatic for Annabeth, this does provide the impetus for her to make new friends and to learn that she is stronger than she ever believed she was.

I really came to like both Annabeth and Steven and I was rooting for them to overcome the Noe-effect and learn that they were strong, confident people. I have more confidence that Annabeth learned this than that Steven did though.

Certain situations in the story will keep me from having this in my middle school/high school media center. But I think that older teens would really like getting to know Annabeth. ( )
  kmartin802 | Apr 15, 2015 |
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As her senior year of high school begins, Annabeth is anticipating the realization of everything she and her best friend, Noe, have been dreaming of, but soon struggles with such unforeseen complications as Noe's new boyfriend and a long-hidden secret.… (more)

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