High school football player Caleb is drawn to his sad, bookish classmate Adam, who is an island of calm in an ocean of other people’s emotions.
Caleb is the quintessential handsome, popular athlete, but he’s dealing with an unusual problem: He has the supernatural power of feeling others’ emotions. Sure enough, high school is a stressful place for someone with such a power, and Adam is the only person at school whose emotional presence helps Caleb bear the onslaught of teenage feelings. Adam, who is Jewish, has a huge crush on Caleb but doesn’t dare hope that Caleb feels the same way about him. Meanwhile, Caleb understands everyone’s feelings but his own. Shippen’s debut novel is a fluttery, insightful teen romance told in both boys’ voices, filled to the brim with feelings but sidestepping melodrama and coming-out angst. The author gives emotions form, texture, and color, taking readers along on Adam’s and Caleb’s journeys while remembering that a boyfriend is not an antidote to life’s supernatural—or mundane—problems. Though the author touches on several unresolved plotlines from her science-fiction podcast, The Bright Sessions, especially in the second half, the novel is strong enough to stand alone for those who have never listened to it. Caleb is white; dark-skinned Adam's father is Jewish.
A warm, satisfying love story with depth. (Science fiction. 13-adult)