by Jennifer Niven
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, Random House Kids on October 4, 2016
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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.
Armed with wit and humour, Niven delivers a poignant story that reads like an insta-classic. It is the “Can’t Hardly Wait” of this generation.
This novel was a fast read for me. I couldn’t put it down once I started. Alternating chapters reveal two characters that find a common heart-string among the awkwardness of high-school despite their night-and-day experiences. While the chapters were short and sweet, the characters were smart and addicting. Being inside of Libby Strout’s head was one of the best things I’ve ever done. If you are lucky, she will remind you of yourself. Or if you are lucky in a different way, she will inspire you to be more of your awesome self. Jack Masselin is pretty bad-ass as well, but Libby takes the cake. No pun intended.
Niven’s story delivers sharp and insightful commentary on the American social experience, especially for those who fall outside of the cookie cutter norm that American media sells. Although written from the perspective of Libby and Jack, a high-school boy and girl, Holding Up The Universe is sure to hold truth and relevance for a range of readers. There is magic in this book that transcends age.
This novel takes a tabloid-esqe story and pieces together the humans behind the headlines. Holding Up The Universe is an important reminder that people are more than what they look like and that everyone we come across is fighting their own battles.
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