Mackler, Carolyn. Infinite In Betweeen.

NY: HarperCollins, 2015.

This is the first of Mackler’s YA books I’ve read and it’s not bad. The structure is a little strange, but it seems to work. The focus is on five kids in a town in central New York as they make the journey through four years of high school. In freshman orientation, as an “ice-breaker,” all the new students are broken into groups of five to share some kind of socially useful activity.

One group, the one we’re interested in, decides to write letters to their future selves, to be opened on Graduation Day, four years hence. The group consists of Whitney, biracial and beautiful and bright and one of the popular crowd, but also a nice person; Jake, who knows a secret about himself that he’s trying to work up the courage to admit to his parents and to the world at large; Mia, tall and physically underdeveloped and the smartest kid in the school, and she wishes she weren’t; Gregor, the budding artist, whose next few years will be very traumatic; and Zoe, daughter of a famous film star, who has to come and live with her aunt while her mother has breakdowns and wafts in and out of rehab.

The book moves sedately one semester at a time, with a short chapter being given to each of the five in each term. Sometimes big things happen, sometimes not much happens at all, just like life. Couples come together, couples break up and reconfigure. Eventually, a few of them will fall in love for real. Girls become best friends, then mortal enemies. Talents are discovered. People find themselves in danger. People die.

Given the method the author follows, I would have expected this book to be five times as long as it is, examining and recording in much more depth the changes the five teenagers undergo as they mature. But then it wouldn’t be the same book. And while I would really like to know what happened in between some of the chapters — you often only find a brief mention of the results of a hook-up, or whatever, or else you’re left to wonder — Mackler balances it all out very nicely, until the five of them come together again at the very end, peering ahead into the next stage of their developing lives in college.

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