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WHEN WE WERE INFINITE by Kelly Loy Gilbert Kirkus Star


by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Pub Date: March 9th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-5344-6821-4
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

High school senior Beth Claire knows what it’s like to lose someone you love.

Ever since her White father left, after her parents’ divorce, Beth has blamed her Chinese American mother for the end of their marriage. Striving not to repeat her mother’s mistakes, Beth does her best to be someone who is wanted and needed by those around her, especially her four closest friends, Brandon, Grace, Jason, and Sunny. She cherishes the closeness of their group and wants nothing more than for them all to stay tightly bonded through the year and even beyond graduation. Then Beth and Brandon accidentally witness Jason’s father assaulting him. Jason brushes off the violence, but Beth is devastated by the realization that she was unaware of her friend’s family situation. She becomes anxious when she and her friends are unable to devise a way to help Jason. The story is told retrospectively by an older Beth, whose tenderness toward her younger self contrasts with high school Beth’s critical and self-effacing demeanor. Her desire to be enough—competent enough, Chinese enough, accommodating enough—is described with the clarity of hindsight and vivid emotion, particularly when it comes to Jason, who was able to see past Beth’s carefully cultivated mildness to understand her in a way that the others do not. Brandon, Grace, Jason, and Sunny are all Asian American; Sunny is pansexual.

Beautifully, achingly cathartic.

(resources) (Fiction. 13-18)