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When We Were Infinite

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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, 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. 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.


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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, 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. 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.

30 review for When We Were Infinite

  1. 4 out of 5

    jessica

    KLG is a remarkable talent. shes one of those authors where you can tell words run deeply in her veins. and if you havent already read her amazing book ‘picture us in the light,’ you have plenty of time to pick it up and experience her stunning writing before this is released early next year. KLG has an impressive way of writing about emotionally raw and powerfully heavy topics with such light and lovely words. its a contradiction that shouldnt exist, but she excels at this kind of narration KLG is a remarkable talent. shes one of those authors where you can tell words run deeply in her veins. and if you havent already read her amazing book ‘picture us in the light,’ you have plenty of time to pick it up and experience her stunning writing before this is released early next year. KLG has an impressive way of writing about emotionally raw and powerfully heavy topics with such light and lovely words. its a contradiction that shouldnt exist, but she excels at this kind of narration. and this particular story really benefits from it. i could feel beths anxiety, love, desperation, passion, and loyalty in such a visceral way. not only could i empathise with what she was feeling, but i also found myself in awe of it. the way her emotions bleed across the page is a devastatingly beautiful experience for the reader. this is the kind of story that can truly change lives and what a rare gift that is. my eternal gratitude to simon and schuster for the ARC. ↠ 4.5 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    may ➹

    — find this review and others on my blog! Kelly Loy Gilbert has done it (made me cry) again and I am so mad about it —★— Upon turning the last page of this book, I sat for a moment, still, empty. It felt simultaneously like I was breathless from the raw beauty threaded in every word of this book, and hollowed out from something nameless under my skin being dug out of me. Kelly Loy Gilbert has a way with words that draws out this entirely messy response from you, a tangle of emotions both good and b — find this review and others on my blog! Kelly Loy Gilbert has done it (made me cry) again and I am so mad about it —★— Upon turning the last page of this book, I sat for a moment, still, empty. It felt simultaneously like I was breathless from the raw beauty threaded in every word of this book, and hollowed out from something nameless under my skin being dug out of me. Kelly Loy Gilbert has a way with words that draws out this entirely messy response from you, a tangle of emotions both good and bad, and there is no feeling more unique than what she pulls out of you. This book brought me to tears, and several times I could not even put a name to the reason I was crying. Her words touched something in me, brought comfort to it, while almost tearing at me at the same time. When We Were Infinite tells the story of Beth, a girl who, at the end of it all, simply wants to be with her friends as long as possible and support them in whatever way she can. She has also harbored feelings for one of them, Jason, ever since they became friends. But things soon get complicated, amidst college looming in their near futures, the sudden discovery of Jason’s violent home life, friend and family conflicts, and mental health challenges. It is a story about relationships, people, and identity, all rendered in achingly gorgeous prose and delivered without holding back. […] I understood how there are parts of yourself—segments you can measure by time or by depth, by how long or how strongly they were a part of you—that you can’t take back once you’ve offered them to someone who’s made it so clear he never wanted them. Gilbert has cemented herself as one of my favorite writers with this book. Her work is genius, her sense of character brilliant, and her prose simple and mesmerizing and affecting. Her writing isn’t fancy, flowery language, but still rings with beauty all the same. This book is heavy, almost a sinking weight in your stomach when you read, but she writes almost delicately, a strange contradiction because the impact her words have on you is anything but. Beth was a fantastic protagonist, but I’ll be up front that I don’t think this will be a book for everyone, especially with Beth as the main character. I myself thought Beth was a bit whiny at times, or found myself irritated at her thoughts or actions. But I think that those who can take the time to sink into the story, to be patient and let the book unravel in the way that it’s meant to, will find themselves rewarded. Beth’s mindset will hit home with a lot of people—her belief that she has to be as selfless as possible to make people love her and to encourage them to stay, to the point that her selflessness becomes self-destruction. Before her friends, she was lonely and sad, but finding them was returning to a home she never knew existed. I think we all can relate to the feeling of finding people we just fit with, who make us feel safe and loved, and it is this relatability that makes reading her story so uncomfortable. We recognize how unhealthy her thought processes are, helpless to do anything but watch her spiral, and it truly just hurts to see her base so much of herself and her self-worth and her life on other people. >I understood how fragile happiness could be. Or maybe it wasn’t happiness at all, but relief. It’s easy to mistake them when that’s all you have. I actually didn’t care for the romance between Beth and Jason as much as I wanted to, but it, at the same time, somehow managed to deeply affect me. I didn’t see much chemistry between them (which, you could argue, was the point), I wanted more development in the beginning, and I didn’t think Jason was as fleshed out as he could have been, especially compared to the other friends in the group. But being in a relationship—whether romantic, platonic, or familial—with someone going through mental health issues and not wanting to communicate with you is a difficult position to be in. How Gilbert approached it resonated with me, enough to the point that made it hard for me to read at several times, and I thought it was portrayed with the utmost care and respect. I will say that while I might not have fully loved Beth and Jason’s romance, I adored the ending of the book so, so much. And maybe, again, that’s the point of how it was written: an imperfect relationship with roots you can still recognize as worthy of growing. (I’m trying to stay as vague here as possible!) Gilbert’s endings always hit me so hard, and this one is filled with so much light and hope in the midst of the mundane loneliness of life. I was fully in love with the relationships that Beth had formed with her friends, though. While still focusing greatly on Beth and her individual growth, this book examines friendships closely, especially in the face of horrific events such as abuse. Brandon, Sunny, Grace—all of them had distinct personalities and voices, and I loved Beth’s relationship with each one of them. It’s heartbreaking to watch them all struggle to deal with Jason’s abusive family on their own, because in the end, the system fails them and no one has the right resources to help, and they are simply just kids trying their best. I don’t think I realized before then how my violin let me make a home for myself, how it let me belong in places I never would have otherwise—how I could lose myself in the music and try to find myself again and how, eventually, I always did. Gilbert writes Asian American representation that is so explicitly Asian American, even though the parts that touched me the most felt almost like whispers, erring more on a quieter side that almost hurts. The relationship Beth has with her white father who left their family is a large influence on her, practically what defines her view toward other people. But what resonated with me the most was the dynamic between her and her Chinese American mom. There’s something about a mother and her child in Asian American families that’s so lovely and heavy at the same time, and Gilbert constantly captures this strange, incongruous dynamic like a shattered moment in time. I also appreciated the inclusion of art in this story, specifically music, and its importance to Beth. Art is a very big part of my life, as a writer and a dancer and a pianist. While I may not hold piano as dearly to me as Beth holds violin, the recognition of music or art in general as a way to lose and discover yourself all at once was so beautifully written, especially as a part of her arc. There seems to be a theme of college, art, and Asian American identity in Gilbert’s books, and I can’t express how personally meaningful it is to see it never veer into the typical “I’m not allowed to pursue the arts because I’m Asian” route. Sometimes you can believe in the heart of another person. And sometimes, I think, you can also believe in your own—that it’s stronger than you realized, that it can hold multiple things at once, like anxiety and also hope, the future and also the past. It can hold space for another person without forfeiting itself. As difficult as this book can be to read at times, almost making you need to stop and catch a breath that you didn’t realize was stolen from you, the ending of it is resounding in its hope. Gilbert never shies away from the sadder parts of life, but she spotlights the happier as well. You are hit with the sense of realness that her books always embody, and this realness is what makes them so painful yet impactful—because you know that what she writes is a reflection of actual life. I don’t think any review I attempt to write could do this book justice, not with all it encompasses and all the themes it manages to excel at executing and all the unnamable ways it touched me. But I hope I’ve at least been able to convince you to pick this book up and let it hollow you out as it did to me. If you’re looking for a story that touches on mental health and Asian American dynamics, that is at its core about identity and the relationships we build with other people, that will wring you out and hold you close in the same breath, this is for you. —★— :: representation :: biracial (Chinese, white) MC, Taiwanese American LI, Taiwanese American wlw character, Taiwanese American character, Japanese American character :: content warnings :: suicide attempt, suicidal ideation, parental abuse (physical), panic attacks, racism, homophobia // buddy read with ash! Thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinions in any way. All quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may differ in final publication.

  3. 4 out of 5

    jenny✨

    TW: domestic assault/abuse, (view spoiler)[attempted suicide (hide spoiler)] , racism, microaggressions, mental health and illness, panic attacks If there’s something you should take away from my review, it’s this: When We Were Infinite is a really, really hard read. It is all the more important for it. That being said, I’m going to be honest. For the majority of this book, I felt drained. It tackles a lot of heavy subjects, from mental illness to domestic violence, intergenerational conflict to in TW: domestic assault/abuse, (view spoiler)[attempted suicide (hide spoiler)] , racism, microaggressions, mental health and illness, panic attacks If there’s something you should take away from my review, it’s this: When We Were Infinite is a really, really hard read. It is all the more important for it. That being said, I’m going to be honest. For the majority of this book, I felt drained. It tackles a lot of heavy subjects, from mental illness to domestic violence, intergenerational conflict to internalized racism, and the terrifying, frustrating helplessness experienced by children of immigrants when we face these challenges. Personally, I had to be very intentional in my reading, taking intermittent breaks, allowing myself to feel angry/sad/hurt. My favourite part of this book—besides the heap-loads of Asian rep—was Kelly Loy Gilbert’s writing, which flows seamlessly and compels you to read on. At several points, her words moved me to tears. Loy Gilbert demonstrates that beautiful, descriptive prose need not be monopolized by fiction targeted at adults. When We Were Infinite is all the more vivid because it doesn’t rely on the saccharine clichés that some YA authors believe high schoolers speak in. Because of this, the friendships between Beth and Sunny, Jason, Brandon, and Grace felt tangible and real; they hurt my heart. And it was the themes of friendship—and loyalty and love—that really spoke to me. What does all of this mean, when you’re on the cusp of your lives changing enormously? For Beth, who has found a group of people she loves with her whole heart, the uncertainty of a future after high school is terrifying. ◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️ HOWEVER... I wasn’t the biggest fan of Beth’s narration. It was, If I’m being frank, difficult for me to be in her head. I think in many ways she reminds me (too much) of myself; in her, I not only see but also feel, very viscerally, the pressure to be accommodating and diminutive and uncontroversial that I experience daily as a woman of colour. Above all, I wish that the bulk of Beth's character development hadn't been relegated to the last few chapters—I think if her revelations had come earlier, it would've been more bearable, pleasurable, for me to be in her head. It was also depleting for me to read about her idol-worship for her (white) father and demeaning attitude toward her (Chinese) mother. This, coupled with the mental health issues experienced by several characters in the book, led me to have to set this novel aside for several days to take a breather. That being said, I felt that Loy Gilbert deftly captures certain nuances and complexities of contemporary Asian American experiences, particularly those for mixed-race folks. There is kindred poignancy in her words. This was also one of the most heart-wrenching depictions of music and being a musician that I’ve ever read; I am very appreciative of that. Lastly, I thought that the ending especially resonated because the book doesn’t eschew nuance for a happily-ever-after. It wrapped up this story on a hopeful, bright note—though not without its uncertainty—and left me with tears in my eyes. ◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️ BOTTOM LINE: MORE. #OWNVOICES. BOOKS. ABOUT. ASIAN. CHARACTERS! It was a magical experience reading—a facet of—the Asian diasporic experience through the lens of Loy Gilbert’s prose. This wasn’t the book for me, but it absolutely will be for someone else, made clear by rave reviews already. Many thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    ash ♡

    Read this review + see the moodboard/edit I made for this book on my blog here! When We Were Infinite is a heartbreaking and heavy read that will take you on a tumultuous journey, letting you grieve and ache for the characters, but ultimately leaving you with a quiet yet profound sense of hope. This book follows Beth: a biracial teen in her senior year of high school who’s always felt invincible with her friends Jason, Brandon, Sunny and Grace at her side. She can’t imagine her life without th Read this review + see the moodboard/edit I made for this book on my blog here! When We Were Infinite is a heartbreaking and heavy read that will take you on a tumultuous journey, letting you grieve and ache for the characters, but ultimately leaving you with a quiet yet profound sense of hope. This book follows Beth: a biracial teen in her senior year of high school who’s always felt invincible with her friends Jason, Brandon, Sunny and Grace at her side. She can’t imagine her life without them, especially because they’ve been there for her ever since her father left and her life at home crumbled. However, as the group starts to think about their future and what lies ahead for them individually, Beth witnesses something terrible happening to Jason at the hands of his own father, and everything starts to unravel. Soon, she learns more about herself and the lengths she’s willing to go to for people she loves. Right from the first page of this book, I found myself adoring Beth’s friend group and their dynamic. Simply put, I loved reading about how much they love each other! Each of the side characters are crafted so well, and their personalities all seem very three-dimensional. “Together, and only together, we were transcendent.” Speaking of well-written characters, I really appreciate how Beth is characterized in When We Were Infinite. It was hard for me to read her perspective at times because she has so many misbeliefs about the world and herself, but even though her struggles of not feeling good enough and always wanting to give more of herself to others than she takes were heartbreaking to read, I was also able to resonate with them. I could see my own insecurities reflected in hers, as I think many other young people will. This rawness to her character is written very powerfully, and what makes it even better is her character arc. By the end of the story, Beth learns that she is worth more than she thinks, that she is allowed to be angry and she is allowed to live for herself, and that change is so cathartic to read. "The world will tell you otherwise because you’re a girl and you’re not white and you’re softhearted, but you’re allowed to keep things for yourself, and—and to say something isn’t good enough for you. You’re allowed to want more. You’re allowed to be angry." I’m not going to talk too much about the plot of the story today because, just like Kelly Loy Gilbert’s other works, this book is best read without knowing what it’s about and instead letting the story speak for itself. Still, I will say this: this book is very heavy and deals with a lot of triggering topics, so please check the trigger warnings below if you need to. What amazes me, though, is how Kelly Loy Gilbert is able to write about these heavy topics with prose that is absolutely gorgeous and flows together so well that I couldn’t stop myself from highlighting almost every sentence. Like I said in my review of Picture Us In The Light, her writing isn’t even overly descriptive or detailed, but the way she strings phrases together to convey emotions is tremendously moving. All of the figurative language and analogies she uses in this book are so, so beautiful, and I think a lot of that has to do with her focus on the little things: the feelings, moments and details that might seem minuscule at first glance, but actually determine the most in our daily lives. There’s not much I can say about this other than show you a lot of my favorite quotes from this novel so you can understand!! "Sometimes the people who know you best can speak into your life—they can illuminate all its shadowed parts for you to see." "Everything you do, and everything you don’t do, is all woven into the narrative of your life; each choice you make sets the future in motion, even (and perhaps especially) if you don’t feel it at the time. Each action or inaction is a thread pulled into the greater whole." "But that night it felt like all the history we’d shared, this life we’d built together, and what we were building now, whatever this was and whatever it would be—all that was too large and important and real to be contained by the lawn or the parking lot or the outskirts of the park or even the city boundaries; that night, the two of us together felt so infinite." "Music is a mirror: it waits quietly for you, and when you come to it, you appear temporarily inside of it, you insert yourself there and mold yourself and the piece to fit, and in the best times, you then go away with new insights about yourself." 'It was a cool, clear morning, mist still clinging to the foothills rising out past the track and baseball fields. The trees by the parking lot had littered layers of red and gold and orange leaves everywhere, small sunsets that crackled under your footfall." "The room was wavering around me, arcing and flattening itself out like a cat." "I was starting to think that anyone who paid attention had anger embedded in her, like an earring backing." "A warmth spread through my chest, that sunburst of recognition, when someone you care about shows you some way they’ve held a space for you in their heart." "It’s always so fragile, so fragile, the way things are held together. You blink and you disturb the whole universe." "Because maybe in a long friendship everyone is an infinite number of different versions of themselves, and all those selves of you that you shed or grow out of, the ones you’re glad you’ve evolved from and the ones you miss—in a long friendship there’s someone who was witness to all of them, and so all those different people you were along the way, no matter what else you may have been, you were never alone." Another reason I love the author’s prose in this novel is because it creates such a jarring juxtaposition with the heavy content, giving the story an eerily raw tone and allowing the candid themes to shine. And that brings me to the topic of theme: I simply love how many ideas are explored in this novel, and how Kelly Loy Gilbert is able to use each to bring together such a vivid and painfully human experience. Honestly, so much happens in When We Were Infinite—it feels much longer than it actually is, but in a good way. I remember finishing the book and refusing to believe it was over, yet still feeling like I had read something I wouldn’t forget for a while. Kelly Loy Gilbert is able to explore topics such as mental health, friendship, identity, healing and racism with such nuance and care that I can really tell this is a story close to her heart. This novel is not perfect, though: I was conflicted about my rating at first because a few things kept me from fully loving it—notably the pacing. The beginning was slow and I felt that some plotlines weren’t carried out thoroughly; I also wished the ending wrapped up the plot a little better. If I’m being honest, I didn’t think I could rate it as high as 4 stars upon finishing because of this. Nevertheless, once I took the time to write this review and really reflect on the novel, I realized all the hidden ways that it was actually a gorgeous read. And I think that if you want to fully be able to enjoy this book, you need to let it slowly seep into your mind, allowing it to carve a little piece in your heart until you understand how powerful it is. So because of this, I can confidently say that When We Were Infinite is an extremely important story that I am glad to have picked up. Kelly Loy Gilbert remains one of my favorite authors of all time, and this novel is obvious proof that we are lucky to have her stories in the world. ★★★★☆ // 4 stars ♡ buddy read with may —representation: biracial (Chinese, white) mc with anxiety, pansexual Tawainese-American sc, Taiwanese-American sc with depression, Japanese-American sc —trigger warnings: domestic assault, child abuse, attempted suicide, homophobia, injuries, anxiety, panic attacks, hospital

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dahlia

    I believe YA readers are divided into two parts: those who know KLG is one of its best authors writing today, and those who haven't read her yet. I don't even know how to talk about this book so I'm just gonna share my tweets on it from right after I read it, and also say that I have never wanted to hug a mom character in a YA this much in my entire life: I spent today thinking about how each of YA's most skillfully devastating authors has a uniquely destructive style and I think @KellyLoyGilbert I believe YA readers are divided into two parts: those who know KLG is one of its best authors writing today, and those who haven't read her yet. I don't even know how to talk about this book so I'm just gonna share my tweets on it from right after I read it, and also say that I have never wanted to hug a mom character in a YA this much in my entire life: I spent today thinking about how each of YA's most skillfully devastating authors has a uniquely destructive style and I think @KellyLoyGilbert's might be stealing the tiniest breath from you every few seconds until you realize you've been gasping in pain for 80% of a novel. Read WHEN WE WERE INFINITE with extreme amounts of caution and also just prepare to be incredibly, utterly awed, and also know that the pain gasps are for more like 99%. It's such an unspeakably rare thing to be an author who writes the kind of book that feels like it could fundamentally change a reader as a human being, but to be someone who's done it three times is honestly just unfathomable to me and that is exactly KLG's catalog.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    Thanks to the publisher for the ARC; all opinions below are my own! I am still absolutely breathless from finishing When We Were Infinite. Beth is a high school senior who loves her friends and cannot imagine their tight-knit bond ending as they all spread off to college. She's spent most of her life trying to figure out how to be accommodating enough of other people that they will love her and never want to leave as a way of dealing with her trauma over her parents' divorce. Literally her entir Thanks to the publisher for the ARC; all opinions below are my own! I am still absolutely breathless from finishing When We Were Infinite. Beth is a high school senior who loves her friends and cannot imagine their tight-knit bond ending as they all spread off to college. She's spent most of her life trying to figure out how to be accommodating enough of other people that they will love her and never want to leave as a way of dealing with her trauma over her parents' divorce. Literally her entire personality construct is a product of self-help books and magazine quizzes to the point she's never truly her unguarded self. This book is a masterclass in building tension--from the get-go, we know something is going to go wrong and wreck this idyllic friend circle. As we watch one friend's life slowly derail, the tension ratchets up, as does Beth's need to give more of herself to take care of everyone. Beth's inner life is so intricately developed, I feel like it's been a long time since I got to know a character so intimately. Her need to smooth her own sharp edges, and her sense that she doesn't come first in anyone's eyes, except her mother, is devastating, as is the way we watch her hate her mother for all the unconscious ways she "drove off" her self- absorbed, absent father. An extended exploration in many teen's obsession with the way their friends perceive them, and a study in the power of subtlety.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Vicky Again

    I am absolutely torn apart. All I want to do is lay down on the floor and be absorbed into the ether. I don't know how I'm supposed to read anything after this. WHEN WE WERE INFINITE might just be the best book I've read all year. Admittedly, this year has only been a month, but wow. I am just so moved by this story. It was a really tough read (I read as fast as I could just to make the feelings stop) & it felt like someone had their fist in my chest and was just slowly squeezing. Full review to I am absolutely torn apart. All I want to do is lay down on the floor and be absorbed into the ether. I don't know how I'm supposed to read anything after this. WHEN WE WERE INFINITE might just be the best book I've read all year. Admittedly, this year has only been a month, but wow. I am just so moved by this story. It was a really tough read (I read as fast as I could just to make the feelings stop) & it felt like someone had their fist in my chest and was just slowly squeezing. Full review to come (I promise!). Content Warnings: (view spoiler)[parental abuse, attempted suicide, divorced parents, racism, panic-attacks, mental health struggles, internalized self-sacrifice (in the sense that if you work hard enough for people, they won't leave. this also includes a few moments where Beth's perspective on sex is "rape-y." the book deconstructs this well.), homophobia (peripheral, not condoned) (hide spoiler)]

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sue (Hollywood News Source)

    For fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It’s safe to say that I spent the majority of my time dry heaving while reading When We Were Infinite. I should’ve expected Kelly Loy Gilbert will make me cry. This is in no way a fluffy book, and I caution readers to read the trigger warnings. This book covers a wide range of topics from (attempted) suicide, mental illness like anxiety, panic attacks, abuse, racism, mental health, and other microaggressions. What readers could expect: the exploration o For fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It’s safe to say that I spent the majority of my time dry heaving while reading When We Were Infinite. I should’ve expected Kelly Loy Gilbert will make me cry. This is in no way a fluffy book, and I caution readers to read the trigger warnings. This book covers a wide range of topics from (attempted) suicide, mental illness like anxiety, panic attacks, abuse, racism, mental health, and other microaggressions. What readers could expect: the exploration of intergenerational trauma within Asian-American families, friendship, and identity. If you’re a romance reader like me and are expecting a cutesy side romance, this is not it. It’s not the focal focus of the story although, the tropes are friends to lovers, first love, and a little bit of second chance romance. When We Were Infinite is a coming-of-age novel set in San Francisco. The story unravels when Brandon and Beth witnessed Jason’s father physically assaulting him. That single moment changed the dynamics of a tight-knit circle of friends. Beth Claire, Grace Nakamura, Brandon Lin, Sunny Chen, and Jason Tsou are the main characters of the story; the book is told from Beth’s point of view. The five main characters are all East Asian-Americans and Gilbert incorporated different facets of Asian culture and experience into each character. No one has the same foundation as the other. It’s interesting that the parents of these teenagers are repeating the cycle of generational trauma. Someway, our young protagonists are burdened to break that cycle. This is why this book could be triggering for a lot of readers. There’s a manifestation of different types of trauma Main Characters The story is narrated by Beth, who’s the type of friend who rarely say much when she’s with the group. She’s happy to listen to her friends have fun and watch comfortably in the backseat. She’s the glue that tries to hold everyone together. After witnessing something catastrophic that happened to Jason – Beth tried every possible way to comfort him and make him feel normal again. That incident left a lasting effect on her. She started having panic attacks; she started keeping secrets between her friends; she’s fighting with her mom. She’s just angry, sad, and lonely. Who wouldn’t be able to relate to that? The secondary character is Jason, he grew up in an abusive environment; his father physically assaults him. As a result, this affects Jason’s behavior – and how he interacts with his friends. The rest of the group does so much to make him feel normal again. Everyone’s refusal to acknowledge all the trauma that they went through created a fracture to their friendships. I wish adults could give them more credit. They’re a bunch of teenagers who are trying to move on from a distressing series of events within the best abilities that they have. Gilbert didn’t try to throw it under the rug, instead, she showed how the friends tackled the problem without the wall of façade. It’s a contemporary found-family trope. Romance The story mainly focuses on Beth and Jason. She always had a thing for him – that’s why she’s actively trying her best to somehow help him. Even though the romance isn’t the main arc of the story, it is certainly the foundation of Beth’s character. The relationship between Beth and Jason was cute. I like their history but it’s also not the healthiest relationship. It’s clouded by tension and toxicity. In the end, the author resolved this issue carefully. It was not romanticized, all the hurt and harmful behaviors were acknowledged. As I said, this is not a romance novel, even though I wish there’s more to that! When We Were Infinite made me feel nostalgic. Beth’s yearning of wanting to belong in a place, to be tethered to someone or multiple people, to feel that someone cares about you – that self-consuming anger – it’s all heavily packed in this one short book. It is definitely joining my favorite-book list and this-shit-made-me-sob-my-heart-out list. That’s the reason I don’t think I could reread it anytime soon, it’s too realistic and heartbreaking at the same time. Overall, I love the ending and how it gives everyone a snapshot of the future. I wish more YA books will feature an epilogue. When We Were Infinite is a phenomenal YA novel. This book delicately explores intergenerational trauma, friendship, and identity.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    Short version of review: - I truly don't think I've identified with a fictional character more in my life. Beth places so much of her identity on her friendships, often putting other people before herself, and struggles with deep sense that she is not enough for others in various ways (due to the impact of her father's departure when her parents divorced). The book explores the heartaches and pain that can arise from this desperation to hold onto people in a deeply empathetic way, and how Beth ul Short version of review: - I truly don't think I've identified with a fictional character more in my life. Beth places so much of her identity on her friendships, often putting other people before herself, and struggles with deep sense that she is not enough for others in various ways (due to the impact of her father's departure when her parents divorced). The book explores the heartaches and pain that can arise from this desperation to hold onto people in a deeply empathetic way, and how Beth ultimately grows. (It felt well-earned and hopeful, and the final chapter will stay with me forever) - Also explores Beth, and her friends', feelings of helplessness after Jason makes a choice that their friendship group cannot make sense of -- what do you do when you want so desperately to help someone who you care about, and is suffering, and yet this signifies nothing? - Loved the Asian-dominant community setting, and the fact that the book centred around an entirely East Asian friendship group -- their school struggles felt so real - My favourite character was Sunny - I adored her personality, and how much she cared about and was willing to show that to Beth (her line on p324 had me uncontrollably tearing up). The arc in Beth's relationship with her mother was also particularly poignant, and nuanced in the context of her relationship with her grandparents. Some thoughts on the mental health rep (spoiler warning) (view spoiler)[ Kelly Loy Gilbert is incredible at weaving hope into the characters' devastating experiences, and the scene where Beth started heading towards the bridge, and ultimately turned around, is hands down one of the best scenes I've come across in literature, period. (hide spoiler)] How does Kelly Loy Gilbert keep seeing into my soul like this ...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    Trigger warnings: (view spoiler)[panic attacks, anxiety, suicide attempt, parental abuse, racism, homophobia, microaggressions. (hide spoiler)] I'm having a very hard time rating this book. I can't deny this was an excellent read with great writing and a wonderful insight about complex friendships, growing up, trying to hold on to the past and dealing with your own anxiety. The writing was beautiful, too. It. Honestly, it just really triggered me a little bit, so I couldn't fully enjoy it. Read t Trigger warnings: (view spoiler)[panic attacks, anxiety, suicide attempt, parental abuse, racism, homophobia, microaggressions. (hide spoiler)] I'm having a very hard time rating this book. I can't deny this was an excellent read with great writing and a wonderful insight about complex friendships, growing up, trying to hold on to the past and dealing with your own anxiety. The writing was beautiful, too. It. Honestly, it just really triggered me a little bit, so I couldn't fully enjoy it. Read the content warnings and be safe always, friends. For now, it's a 3,5 stars. Full review coming soon! Thank you to the publisher for sending me an e-ARC through NetGalley! This did not, in any way, influence my thoughts & rating. My Blog - Drizzle & Hurricane Books - Twitter - Bookstagram - Bloglovin'

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. As When We Were Infinite will not be published until next year, I'm withholding a full review. The story includes elements of teenage high school life, mental health, and romance-light layered on to broader social issues of relationship, societal expectations, and more. There are some trigger warnings for topics, but overall it is an accessible and engaging text for YA. Thank you to #NetGalley and the publishers for the advanced copy. As When We Were Infinite will not be published until next year, I'm withholding a full review. The story includes elements of teenage high school life, mental health, and romance-light layered on to broader social issues of relationship, societal expectations, and more. There are some trigger warnings for topics, but overall it is an accessible and engaging text for YA. Thank you to #NetGalley and the publishers for the advanced copy.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Mayer

    3.5-4 stars I enjoyed reading this YA book, and I think a lot of teenagers can relate to it. There’s a lot of pressure surrounding students in their high school years. Pressure to get good grades, pressure to please your parents, pressure to get into a good college—and through it all, these kids are struggling with the realization that their friendships may not survive past graduation. Beth is determined to keep her tight knit group of friends together. With her parents being divorced, she often 3.5-4 stars I enjoyed reading this YA book, and I think a lot of teenagers can relate to it. There’s a lot of pressure surrounding students in their high school years. Pressure to get good grades, pressure to please your parents, pressure to get into a good college—and through it all, these kids are struggling with the realization that their friendships may not survive past graduation. Beth is determined to keep her tight knit group of friends together. With her parents being divorced, she often feels that her friends are all she has, and when she witnesses Jason being abused by his dad, her friends make a pact to protect him no matter what. But Beth isn’t convinced her friends are doing enough for him, and she takes it upon herself to take the brunt of the responsibility, even if that means sacrificing her future plans. I thought this was a great story, and it touches on a lot of serious issues that teenagers face every day. While I thought Beth was a great character, she was a bit overbearing at times. It was clear she cared about her friends and had good intentions, but her overprotectiveness came across as too smothering and almost motherly. I wasn’t surprised by Jason’s abrupt reactions to her when she was like that because that’s how teenagers often react to their parents in similar situations. Though this wasn’t my favorite YA book, I still recommend it, and I think it’s important for teens to read about the topics mentioned throughout this story. *I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

  13. 4 out of 5

    dani

    i am a super fan of kelly's book "picture us in the light" which means i was incredibly excited for this book; however, she broke my heart because i did not enjoy it at all. beth was insufferable to say the least; she made terrible decisions, hid things, she treated her mom terribly, and her whole persona was her friends. due to this, there was obviously going to be character development from her, but it happened at the last two chapters of the book; it took too long. i did like the ending; none i am a super fan of kelly's book "picture us in the light" which means i was incredibly excited for this book; however, she broke my heart because i did not enjoy it at all. beth was insufferable to say the least; she made terrible decisions, hid things, she treated her mom terribly, and her whole persona was her friends. due to this, there was obviously going to be character development from her, but it happened at the last two chapters of the book; it took too long. i did like the ending; nonetheless, in my opinion, beth and jason had zero chemistry and did not make a good couple. in conclusion, it was a dramatic novel with lovable characters (sunny has my heart) and despite my thoughts on it, kelly is a terrific writer and I cannot wait for more from her. *special thanks to netgalley and simon & schuster for the arc*

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Allen

    When We Were Infinite by Kelly Loy Gilbert, was a beautifully written coming of age story about the binds of friendship, growing up, and the struggles of high school life. Narrator, Beth, is a senior at a high profile high school with a core group of friends that she is not looking forward to leaving behind when they all graduate. After an act of violence witnessed on one of their friends, Jason, Beth proposes that they'll all stay together through college to make sure they can continue taking c When We Were Infinite by Kelly Loy Gilbert, was a beautifully written coming of age story about the binds of friendship, growing up, and the struggles of high school life. Narrator, Beth, is a senior at a high profile high school with a core group of friends that she is not looking forward to leaving behind when they all graduate. After an act of violence witnessed on one of their friends, Jason, Beth proposes that they'll all stay together through college to make sure they can continue taking care of each other. But, will the decisions that Jason makes end up tearing them apart instead of keeping them together? This novel made me feel so bad for the class of 2020 who left school before Spring Break and never returned. It also made me long for the kind of friendships we experience in High School. I've yet to make a group of friends that are truly THERE for you, like my school friends have always been. This book was beautifully written. I loved Beth's voice, her struggles as an Asian American including the struggles and prejudices encountered as a community, and her insistence on being such an incredible friend. I loved this book and will definitely recommend it for my classroom.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rivalie

    4.5 stars Full Review: a heart so broken and full When We Were Infinite is beautiful, powerful, and so freaking painful to read. Beth Claire's life centers around her friends, Brandon, Sunny, Grace, and Jason. With their senior year comes their final Homecoming, college applications, and the inevitable change that comes with the next page of life. Before the toils of college acceptances and rejections, Beth's relationship with her friends is altered after private matters in Jason's home come to li 4.5 stars Full Review: a heart so broken and full When We Were Infinite is beautiful, powerful, and so freaking painful to read. Beth Claire's life centers around her friends, Brandon, Sunny, Grace, and Jason. With their senior year comes their final Homecoming, college applications, and the inevitable change that comes with the next page of life. Before the toils of college acceptances and rejections, Beth's relationship with her friends is altered after private matters in Jason's home come to light. This book has truly left me feeling hollow in a way I haven't felt in a long time. Being in Beth's head for the entire story is exhausting but at the same time I have never experienced a fictional character's thought mirror my own so accurately. Beth's emotions are like bullets that just ricochet all over the place and it takes her a while to find out where they come from. That creates an incredibly turbulent reading experience and I cannot even tell you how many times I wanted to shake Beth out of her thoughts. The ironic thing, is that many of Beth's thoughts are ones that have come across my mind as well. The desperation of wanting to keep everyone happy and doing everything to mediate tense situations, I couldn't hate Beth without hating myself. Seeing Beth's journey throughout the story is like watching the sun come out from behind the clouds and finally shining brighter after being stuck inside a storm. As she reconciles her fear and her anger with herself, she is able to rebuild her relationship with her friends and most importantly, her mother and finally find the comfort she's been craving. rebuild Despite its difficult topics, When We Were Infinite also made me reminisce and miss my friends so much. The relationship that Beth, Sunny, Grace, Brandon, and Jason have with each other is so uplifting no matter how up/down things get. I loved how Kelly Loy Gilbert didn't forget to include the reason why we as people create relationships and friendships in the first place - the comfort of companionship, of feeling seen, of knowing that someone will always be there - that makes the dark times bearable in the end. As the characters embark on their college chapter, the story shifts its delivery format to more of a vignette style and highlights the group experiencing life away from each other. It felt kind of jarring at first because I was suddenly taken out of being very interconnected with everything to seeing events unfold from more of a distance but I appreciated being able to watch them, especially Beth, grow out of their comfort zones and mature in their outlooks on life. When We Were Infinite is a story that highlights the messy and the good when it comes to friendship, the fears of growing up, and learning to understand the space that we take up in the greater world community. originally posted on dearrivarie Initial thoughts: - this book makes my heart hurt with all the feelings: happiness, anger, sadness, fear, etc. - i desperately miss my friends now - this isn't an easy story to read so bear that mind before starting - it tackles so many aspects of relationships and mental health and especially reading all of that from beth's pov became so difficult. but i still found myself unable to stop because there were glimpses in her life and the lives of her friends/family/community that mirrored my own, so scarily similar i had to take a step back. - another book that makes me so grateful that more asian american stories are being written

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lucie

    *I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley* CW: (view spoiler)[ Suicide attempt, depression, anxiety (hide spoiler)] I had *very* high expectations for this book due to my love for Kelly Loy Gilberts previous novel, Picture Us In The Light, and while I thought this was still good and well done it unfortunately didn't quite live up to those expectations. This book caused me immense stress. I found it hard to read because Beth struggles so much with anxiety it's palpable. I fe *I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley* CW: (view spoiler)[ Suicide attempt, depression, anxiety (hide spoiler)] I had *very* high expectations for this book due to my love for Kelly Loy Gilberts previous novel, Picture Us In The Light, and while I thought this was still good and well done it unfortunately didn't quite live up to those expectations. This book caused me immense stress. I found it hard to read because Beth struggles so much with anxiety it's palpable. I felt anxious while Beth felt anxious. Because of this it was hard for me to "enjoy" the story even though I did think it was well written and beautifully told. I also *hated* how Beth treated her mother. I understand she was a teenager and teens aren't generally known for giving their parents the benefit of the doubt, but it was still hard for me to read. I've found that as I get older (and I'm still very young in the grand scheme of things) it gets easier for me to sympathize with the parents in these YA novels so it just made it that much harder for me to see where Beth was coming from, especially because of how much she idolized her deadbeat father. Luckily the story does show how Beth learns and grows, which I appreciated. I liked how the story showed a tight knit friend group and the trials and tribulations of going through their senior year unsure of how their paths will diverge after high school. The friend group has to deal with this already hard thing ALONG with something very intense that one of them is dealing with. This is definitely a real thing teens go through and I appreciated how it was shown through Beth. As mentioned, she is a very anxious personthe representation of the Asian main characters as well. There is also the added complexity of Beth being mixed race which (fwiw) I thought was done well. I was a bit disappointed about Beth's violin playing. I would've appreciated maybe more descriptions of her playing or just more to show how much she loved it. It felt like, along with everything else, she was just doing it because it was expected of her or other people wanted her to do it. I don't think even Beth knew she loved it. She was good at it, but it didn't even seem like she knew that either? Her orchestra teacher is the one who suggested applying to schools for music, It hadn't even seemed like it had crossed her mind. Not because of money or because her parents wouldn't like it (she even mentions how her mom would be thrilled actually), but for no discernable reason. It just seemed like she didn't really care until the end. Which might've been true, maybe that was supposed to be part of her characterization? That she only cared about her friends? But if so it didn't come through clearly enough. The ending was nice, but it left a few loose threads that I wasn't completely appreciative of. Most noticeably Beth's anxiety is never truly dealt with. Beth starts having panic attacks and yet she never goes to therapy or tries to get any medication. She never gets any real help she just starts to practice her violin and it appears her anxiety just... went away? What? I didn't love that. Overall like I said this book was written well and I appreciated the story that was told. I would recommend it to anyone interested, just go in knowing the mindset the character is in and that the writing really puts you in her place.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    just wanted to say that if normal people got hype/praise and own tv show where is the praise for this book????(????????!!!!!) so much better in every aspect (hate to compare bc i don’t think it makes sense to but cmon an azn american story that touches u in way... and knowing how much White content there is...) and how could you not be so entwined with the protagonist who is really you (me). struck multiple chords and is2g if i had a jason in my life, he would remain as a Friend. Nothing more.. just wanted to say that if normal people got hype/praise and own tv show where is the praise for this book????(????????!!!!!) so much better in every aspect (hate to compare bc i don’t think it makes sense to but cmon an azn american story that touches u in way... and knowing how much White content there is...) and how could you not be so entwined with the protagonist who is really you (me). struck multiple chords and is2g if i had a jason in my life, he would remain as a Friend. Nothing more.. ever. This group dynamic was so powerful and overall a very For You Book if you grew up w the internet. not really. but this is one of those books i wish i read when i was younger. i think i would’ve loved reading a lot more. i feel very haunted by this book because i am reminded about my own anxieties about life. the things i care about the past (that ultimately don’t matter) that i still care about, to a less extent. i don’t want to identify too much with the protag because she isn’t me, although there are many resemblances and instances where I’m like yeah... I’ve done that too in the past or I wouldve chosen the same decision if I were in that position. I am going to look for a book that is warm because this book’s intensity hits u hard. i feel things very deeply so after reading this... just want to feel ok again

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cory Marie

    I think tone is incredibly important to a story, and it’s also something that Kelly Loy Gilbert creates phenomenally well. The tone of this novel is absolutely melancholic. It’s hard to read, but in the best way possible. Hopefully that makes sense? Some stories are meant to affect the reader and leave a lasting impression. When We Were Infinite is one of those stories. The prose of this novel is just... stunning. Words have always had a deep impact on me, but there are few books that can make me I think tone is incredibly important to a story, and it’s also something that Kelly Loy Gilbert creates phenomenally well. The tone of this novel is absolutely melancholic. It’s hard to read, but in the best way possible. Hopefully that makes sense? Some stories are meant to affect the reader and leave a lasting impression. When We Were Infinite is one of those stories. The prose of this novel is just... stunning. Words have always had a deep impact on me, but there are few books that can make me physically ache. I realize that this sounds like a bad thing. I promise it’s not. I’ve always believed that the most important books are the ones that don’t sugarcoat the hard stuff, but still provide a sense of realistic hope. Many times throughout this book I was left feeling empty and even angry, but most importantly, When We Were Infinite showed me that light can exist in what may seem like the darkest of places.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Georgia

    i am so jealous that this is the level of YA the #youthz have these days. don't get me wrong, i loved my sarah dessen and meg cabot, but as i read this book, i kept thinking- if i read this when i was 17, i would've felt so seen. reading it now, i was primarily STRESSED, and really grateful not to be a teenager anymore. it was just toooo relatable, as i too spent so much of my youth being mean to my chinese mom and stressed out by a pressure cooker high school (though not as much as some of my d i am so jealous that this is the level of YA the #youthz have these days. don't get me wrong, i loved my sarah dessen and meg cabot, but as i read this book, i kept thinking- if i read this when i was 17, i would've felt so seen. reading it now, i was primarily STRESSED, and really grateful not to be a teenager anymore. it was just toooo relatable, as i too spent so much of my youth being mean to my chinese mom and stressed out by a pressure cooker high school (though not as much as some of my dear friends on goodreads, cough cough). i ended up reading this in one sitting just so that i could find a resolution to all the stress i felt. definitely a big, heavy read. this reminded me a lot of When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk (even the titles!). though this was billed as a "romantic drama", the core was really friendship, how deep and all encompassing those bonds can feel when you're young (they still do!), and what it feels like when there's nothing you can do to protect them. there were so many times when i just wanted to shake beth but that's just because she felt so REAL. the ending went in such a different, unexpected place that i really appreciated.

  20. 4 out of 5

    USOM

    (Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.) TW: anxiety, panic attacks, racism, suicide attempt, suicide of side character, child abuse When We Were Infinite is told from the present reflecting on the past. It's about looking back and seeing the moments everything changed. The moments we would have just forgotten, but, looking back, mean everything. How it represents a turning point from feeling like the future stretches out be (Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.) TW: anxiety, panic attacks, racism, suicide attempt, suicide of side character, child abuse When We Were Infinite is told from the present reflecting on the past. It's about looking back and seeing the moments everything changed. The moments we would have just forgotten, but, looking back, mean everything. How it represents a turning point from feeling like the future stretches out before us. To a new reality we land in like strangers. Gilbert is a master at complex characters and my heart aches for Beth. It wasn't only in the comments she gets for being biracial and how "Asian she isn't". Big resonant moment for me. It's in the ways Beth grasps for what she wants. The gaps between what we wish we could reach and where we stand. It's in the moments we're so desperately trying to keep it together. Our family, our future, our friends, ourselves. When We Were Infinite is about the fracture lines we trace back. The shock waves in soup and fault lines in smiles. All the little ways the pieces slipped out of grasp. The intricacies of their friendships are certainly a huge focus for the book. full review: https://utopia-state-of-mind.com/revi...

  21. 4 out of 5

    CR

    This book was so good. The main character is scared about life changing as she finishes up high school. I liked how down to earth the story was as well as how real. I think leaving high school when things are planned out for you is very scary. It's not an easy time to step into your future. Especially if you are like Beth who survives on self help books and her circle of friends. She isn't really out going until she witnesses something that there is no going back on. I loved how she came into he This book was so good. The main character is scared about life changing as she finishes up high school. I liked how down to earth the story was as well as how real. I think leaving high school when things are planned out for you is very scary. It's not an easy time to step into your future. Especially if you are like Beth who survives on self help books and her circle of friends. She isn't really out going until she witnesses something that there is no going back on. I loved how she came into her own and became stronger.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Emily Hill

    A heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful story of growing up, finding yourself, and letting go. This story follows Beth, a high school senior who has dedicated her life to caring for others, most specifically, her close knit group of friends. But when tragedy strikes, holding everything together becomes impossible. The main character is well written and heartbreakingly relatable as she struggles to be enough for those around her. I was compelled to keep reading mainly because I wanted to see her gro A heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful story of growing up, finding yourself, and letting go. This story follows Beth, a high school senior who has dedicated her life to caring for others, most specifically, her close knit group of friends. But when tragedy strikes, holding everything together becomes impossible. The main character is well written and heartbreakingly relatable as she struggles to be enough for those around her. I was compelled to keep reading mainly because I wanted to see her grow and come to love herself, rather than seek validation from those around her. Throughout this story, the plot was full of twists, while remaining realistic, and the supporting characters were developed well and truly diverse. Because of the immersive deep POV, this book was sometimes painful to read - not because it wasn't well done - but because it was so well executed. Through this, the book did something particularly remarkable: it offered readers a chance to be in the heart and mind and soul of another, and grow in empathy through the experience. Overall, I would highly recommend this story, with the note that it is a book meant to expand your heart to those suffering, rather than provide a light escape. I am thankful to have been provided an e-arc of this book through Edelweiss and Simon & Schuster.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    Thank you to Netgalley for providing and ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. Beth's story -- the story of a high school student and her best friends navigating their time together through trauma -- was a mix of breathtaking highs and lows. Gilbert created a character I felt I knew by the end of the book. Her words were powerful and her emotions were raw. I felt like Beth was with me, and I was living through some of her experiences as well. Dealing with trauma, especially attempted suicide and Thank you to Netgalley for providing and ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. Beth's story -- the story of a high school student and her best friends navigating their time together through trauma -- was a mix of breathtaking highs and lows. Gilbert created a character I felt I knew by the end of the book. Her words were powerful and her emotions were raw. I felt like Beth was with me, and I was living through some of her experiences as well. Dealing with trauma, especially attempted suicide and depression, is never easy to read; however, Gilbert navigated this well. The book was equal parts challenging, emotional, and brilliantly deep. Beth spends so much of her time accommodating others -- something so many can relate to. At times, it was difficult to read. Beth was so involved in her own world that I felt pulled into her emotional trials and tribulations, wishing she could see things from the outside. I wanted to fall in love with this book, but unfortunately I didn't. Truly, because it was so painful to experience Beth's pain with her, this book is not one that I will recommend freely. Although this book is not appropriate for my middle grades readers, I will plan to share it with advanced 8th graders and high schoolers who are equipped to handle such serious topics through literature.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Arlen

    I really wanted to like this more than I did. I enjoy reading about other cultures, being taught about them, etc. But I couldn't get past the insipid writing. Plus some of the things didn't make sense, like when the mom didn't even notice her daughter had a new necklace. Or that in the morning you would never see the things from a plane on the ground that the main characters saw. The author did what she set out to do. She described the culture and the background behind it and how things are chan I really wanted to like this more than I did. I enjoy reading about other cultures, being taught about them, etc. But I couldn't get past the insipid writing. Plus some of the things didn't make sense, like when the mom didn't even notice her daughter had a new necklace. Or that in the morning you would never see the things from a plane on the ground that the main characters saw. The author did what she set out to do. She described the culture and the background behind it and how things are changing and not changing. But I just never got involved in the story, and I didn't care so much about the characters like I wanted to. I couldn't decide if the inability for the characters to act was because of cultural differences or poor writing, and that's why this didn't fly for me.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Salisbury

    This wasn’t an easy book to read. At times it was so effective in conveying Beth’s quiet, clawing desperation to bring about some semblance of normalcy that it was hard to enjoy. It was heavy, uncertain, often a little despairing. It put its characters through hell and barely brought them back. But I haven’t read a book this powerful in years. I can’t say that it was a perfect book or that I loved every minute of it, but “When We Were Infinite” was a beautifully written and supremely effective l This wasn’t an easy book to read. At times it was so effective in conveying Beth’s quiet, clawing desperation to bring about some semblance of normalcy that it was hard to enjoy. It was heavy, uncertain, often a little despairing. It put its characters through hell and barely brought them back. But I haven’t read a book this powerful in years. I can’t say that it was a perfect book or that I loved every minute of it, but “When We Were Infinite” was a beautifully written and supremely effective look into the weight that rests on those who reach a crossroads.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Angela Branham

    Sarah has a support system of best friends; in fact, they're the reason she wakes up each day. She can't imagine a world without them. But this is senior year; they're all expected to go to college. Then a tragedy happens that tests their friendship, causes Sarah to reexamine how she lives in this world, how she evaluates friendship and, most importantly, herself.. Sarah has a support system of best friends; in fact, they're the reason she wakes up each day. She can't imagine a world without them. But this is senior year; they're all expected to go to college. Then a tragedy happens that tests their friendship, causes Sarah to reexamine how she lives in this world, how she evaluates friendship and, most importantly, herself..

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kim Small

    It’s really impossible for Kelly to write a bad book, isn’t it? This perfectly tackles what it’s like to grapple with anxiety while trying to forge a future when you’re scared of what it means for your past.

  28. 5 out of 5

    alyssa

    Kelly Loy Gilbert’s writing is everything to me I NEED THIS NOW PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE

  29. 4 out of 5

    maddie

    this looks SO GOOD i LOVE kelly loy gilbert and i will read ANYTHING she writes EVER

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This review and more can be found at www.thebookbratz.blogspot.com. (CONTENT WARNING: This review contains mentions of suicide and suicidal ideation.) I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review as part of the WHEN WE WERE INFINITE blog tour, and I'm so glad that I did, because I ended up really enjoying this read! So without further ado, let's get into my review: As the summary explains, the story follows Beth, a senior in high school whose core gro This review and more can be found at www.thebookbratz.blogspot.com. (CONTENT WARNING: This review contains mentions of suicide and suicidal ideation.) I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review as part of the WHEN WE WERE INFINITE blog tour, and I'm so glad that I did, because I ended up really enjoying this read! So without further ado, let's get into my review: As the summary explains, the story follows Beth, a senior in high school whose core group of friends is her entire life. After being abandoned by her father, all she wants is to have her small group of friends forever, and for them to stay together until the end of time. But then after witnessing abuse in Jason's home, their friend group falls off the track, and while tragedy strikes and the fallout ensues, Beth scrambles to try to keep her friends together, wanting to hold them close and never let them go again. But her friends have other plans -- even if Beth doesn't want to acknowledge that life will always, always move on, and sometimes leaving is a necessary part of that. And so she tries to keep everyone together, especially Jason, while giving away more and more of herself every time. This book deals with a lot of important topics, such as loss, domestic violence, abandonment, grief, and mental health. While Beth is dealing with the normal anxiety of being a graduating senior, all of these external forces in her life are also piling on more worry and panic, and instead of facing it, she chooses to cling to a fantasy where everything in her life is going to stay the same. But eventually, she learns why that isn't a successful practice for anybody. While at times this book could feel dark, intensely sad, and incredibly emotional, I finished it feeling a sense of understanding and even hope, because it showed me that even through all of these terrible things that we go through, and even through all of the things that we don't want to change, life will always change, whether or not you're on board with it. As someone who dreads change (although maybe not as much as Beth does, who is also struggling with abandonment issues), I resonated with that deeply. Something else that I really enjoyed about this book is the way it addresses Beth's feelings of anxiety about graduating high school and leaving her friends. That was a feeling that I remember being very, very real for me when I graduated -- and I wasn't even going that far away! It's a major step in a teenager's life that basically throws you headfirst into the unknown, and with that comes a lot of feelings of panic and nervousness even among the excitement of starting a new school and traveling somewhere new. It's definitely a bittersweet feeling, and I'm so glad that this book addressed it. Overall, WHEN WE WERE INFINITE was a stunning novel that tackles so many important topics, both serious and sweet, from mental health to the incredible bonds that you can make with friends. If you're looking for a powerful read that digs deep into your heart and really makes you feel all sorts of incredible emotions, then I definitely recommend adding this one to your TBR! We'd like to once again thank Simon & Schuster for inviting us to be part of this blog tour! If WHEN WE WERE INFINITE sounds like the type of book you'd be interested in, don't forget to add it to your TBR!

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