Title: Holding Up the Universe
Author: Jennifer Niven
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Synopsis: 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.
An unexpected charmer. As far as YA romance go, this is very cute and well done. The story follows dual perspective of two teens; one is Libby a heavy-set sassy girl who goes back to school after being out for years due to her extreme obesity. She’s lost some weight (300 lbs!) and now she’s just trying to be normal and maybe join her school’s dance team. She meets Jack, a bi-racial popular jock who has a secret from everyone; he’s disabled. He has a condition in where he cannot recognize faces, he forgets the features and he’s constantly surrounded by strangers. This helps his ‘you’re not important enough to be in my radar’ big man on campus status.
As the story progresses it jumps times and shows how the 2 characters have been connected without their knowledge. Despite it being written for young adults, it’s a good read as the characters are not shallow or overly juvenile. I liked how much time Niven spent on giving Jack’s condition depth, he really struggles to keep the world together despite outward appearances and their behavior (both good and bad) was apropos to teens.
This is my first Niven novel, I’ve heard very mixed reviews about her previous novel so I’m glad I started with this one because this was very engaging. I read it in less than 24 hours so that tells you how much I enjoyed it.