Friday, September 2, 2016

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Libby Strout is famous, and not in a good way. Known as "America's Fattest Teen," Libby became known nationwide when video of her being cut out of her house by emergency crews went viral. But that was years ago and Libby is better now. She's lost weight, enough so that death is no longer imminent, and she's happy. Happy with herself and her body. Happy enough to brave the halls of Martin Van Buren High as a junior. 

Everyone at Martin Van Buren High knows Jack Masselin. He's popular and well-liked, confident, and goofy. But it's all a show. Jack has prosopagnosia, or face blindness. And he's carefully cultivated his persona to cover the fact that he literally can't tell one person from another. It's a secret even his own family isn't privy to. 

But then Libby and Jack are thrown together thanks to an awful prank. And it turns out that the two of them share a connection neither expected. A connection that blossoms into something more as they come to know one another. 

I love Libby. Love her! Teen years are hard enough without being the subject of a viral video. Acne, awkwardness, puberty, confidence issues, bullying... you name it, teens suffer from it. And Libby's problems began when her mother died. Her father tried his best, in spite of what the media claimed a few years later, but for Libby there was a hole in her world that could never be filled.

But Libby is strong and confident in a way that draws people to her. Even on the first day of school, when she has to wonder how many of the classmates remember who she is, she doesn't let it deter her.

Jack is one of the cool kids and all too aware that his problem makes him different. And different is the very last thing you want to be as a teen. He excuses his missteps with jokes and even drinks (the party at the start of the book) and does a good job of not letting his situation slip. It's worse because Jack's dealing with some tough issues at home too - namely the discovery that his father was having an affair. Oh, and that his dad narrowly survived cancer. That's a big deal for Jack. How can he be angry at someone he almost lost?

From the start, though, Jack decides to tell Libby his secret. Yes, it's to smooth the blow of what he's done to her. And yes, their socializing is forced when they have to spend time together in a conversation circle for detention and weekends together doing "community" (school) service. But it's clear that Jack admires Libby and literally sees her for who she is.

Readers, I suspected from the opening letter from the author that Holding Up the Universe was going to be a hard read and a tearjerker. I was convinced. As it turns out, that actually wasn't the case at all. Libby and Jack quickly wormed their way into my heart, and I read the book straight through in one sitting. Sure I misted up a bit - but because it was a sweet story rather than a downer!

Highly recommended - Libby and Jack (and Jennifer Niven) will capture your hearts, I guarantee!

Holding Up the Universe is due out on October 4.

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