Four friends just about to start their senior year in high school have been getting together to play Dungeons and Dragons since sixth grade.
Archie is a particularly geeky math whiz who appreciates the “quantifiable and predictable” world of numbers. His parents have been divorced a year, after his dad’s coming-out as gay, and he’s being forced to move in with his dad, which also is forcing him to switch schools (a development that’s not a happy one for any senior in high school). Mari is a black girl who’s adopted in a white family. She writes to express and sort through her feelings, and news about her adoptive mom and the possibility of contacting her birth mother are throwing her for a loop. Dante is a linebacker-size black guy who doesn’t like football. He’s kind and loyal to his friends but is hiding a secret. And Sam is a Filipino-American who is utterly devoted to his girlfriend, Sarah. But when a sudden change comes, he reacts in a big way. Either way, his friends are there for him.
An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes goes from the perspective of each of these four characters to the next, giving readers a window into their particular struggles and inner thoughts, for almost half the page count, then the narrative follows all four at once as they go on a road trip. I enjoyed getting to know each character and seeing how their perspectives overlapped in the first part. The author has a nice style and linked the stories in a satisfying way.
But then the book went off the rails for me: parts of the four friends’ adventures driving cross-country in the second half just seemed outlandish compared with the realistic way the first part of the book played out. And while the first half only had one or two uses of strong language, the second half (and the book is only 240 pages long in total) was packed full of it. Add to that the author’s heavy-handed way of trying to get “the message(s)” (certainly not new ones) across, and I just wanted to be done with it.
Rated: High (really high). There are at least three dozen uses of strong language, as well as at least that many uses of milder language. There are quite a few crude, vulgar references. Teen boys here are acting and talking like teen boys. There are a number of homosexual characters and homosexuality (and how people react to it) is a theme that is addressed heavily. There are some sexual scenes and one scene of violence that is not lengthy but is not just a brief reference to a violent act.