Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 4th, 2016
Genres: Young Adult
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Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.
Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.
Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.
This was the first book that I ever listened to from beginning to end and while I still prefer to read my own books, this was a great story. It was interesting, the characters were compelling and Niven’s writing style kept me invested in what was going on. I’ve never heard of prosopragnosia before listening to this book but I’m glad that I’ve been schooled on it.
Jack’s character and his experiences with prosopragnosia hurt my heart and I was very interested in that part of the book. Libby was a wonderful addition as well. She was so strong and I really enjoyed seeing the both of them come into their own while finding their love for each other.
This was not an easy book to read (or listen to) but I felt it was an important book for younger kids to read. It’s important for kids to understand what other kids could be going through and to empathize with them. To help them when they need it and I felt like if Jack had someone who knew everything and could help him long before Libby came along, maybe things wouldn’t have gotten as bad for Jack as they had.
Still, this was an interesting listen that I’m glad I took a chance on. I’ll definitely be reading more books by Niven as I enjoyed both Jack and Libby’s story. Jack and Libby weren’t perfect and with Jack being as popular as he was and Libby, not popular at all, their romance would be laughable and completely unrealistic but I thought Niven did a very good job of convincing me that their love was real and true. This was a great introduction to Jennifer Niven’s writing and I cannot wait to read more. I definitely recommend this if you’re in the mood for a contemporary YA with meat. It’s good stuff. I promise.
Grade: 4 out of 5