Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
First Published: October 4, 2016
First Line: "I'm not a shitty person, but I'm about to do a shitty thing."
Book Description from GoodReads: 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.
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars
My Review: I was drawn to this book because of its cover. It reminded me of both Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland and We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen - both of which I adored. I'm a sucker for a good cover pic, what can I say.
What I liked about Holding Up The Universe:
- This book deals with some important issues - bullying, weight discrimination, self-acceptance, peer pressure, biases against overweight people, loneliness ...
- The awesome cover
- I enjoyed learning more about the neurological disorder, Prosopagnosia (aka face blindness - the inability to recognize faces, even those closest to you). I had ever so briefly heard about it but Niven gives her readers an in-depth look at what it would be like to live with it - the scary and extremely lonely aspects of the disorder.
- Libby is often a bad ass and I love her confidence
- Jack's relationship with his younger brother Dusty (it gave me all the feels)
- Niven gives readers a good look into the life of a teenager - some of their struggles and anxieties as they try to fit in
- “We're all weird and damaged in our own way. You're not the only one.”
What I struggled with:
- Jack and Libby didn't have enough emotional depth and rarely felt like they were more than their issues for me.
- I couldn't understand why Jack wouldn't tell his family about his Prosopagnosia. Or how they didn't realize that he had trouble recognizing faces. You'd think after a decade they'd put two and two together. And why would Jack want to keep it hidden from them? This issue didn't feel like it was addressed well and felt contrived when Jack simply revealing his problem could have helped solve a lot of his issues at school.
- this was a slower paced book that had only a few blips in the emotional/exciting radar. While there were aspects that I enjoyed, the plot itself was pretty much a flat line.
- the bond between Jack and Libby felt too rushed and the romance unnecessary. I couldn't believe that after he does a horrible, embarrassingly public thing to Libby, in a matter of weeks, they're all chummy and lovey. Libby was strong in other aspects of her life but went all to mush for the first guy to give her the slightest positive attention (after being an utter arse). I would have preferred for them to become great friends, learn something about themselves and support each other no matter what. Romance doesn't always have to come into play.
Overall, this was a good but not great read. Sure it was predictable and could have delved deeper into its character but I liked the issues it addressed and loved the overall message that everyone is wanted and deserves an opportunity to be themselves.
"Dear Friend, You are not a freak. You are wanted. You are necessary. You are the only you there is. Don't be afraid to leave the castle. It's a great big world out there. Love a fellow reader." ~ Holding Up The Universe