Title: Holding Up the Universe (2016)
Author: Jennifer Niven
Publisher: Penguin Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 368 pages
Release Date: October 4, 2016
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.
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 in new and badass ways, 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.
I’ll be honest: I was initially a bit afraid of starting this book because of the whole drama surrounding the initial blurb, which was cited as offensive, fat-shaming, dehumanising, romanticising mental illness, disgusting, and a whole host of other things I don’t care to repeat. Holding Up the Universe, thankfully, ended up being quite the story — quiet yet meaningful, nuanced yet not superfluous.
This book is about Libby, an overweight teenage girl about to go back to school after two years of being homeschooled, and Jack, a biracial teenage boy who has prosopagnosia (face blindness) and is faking his way out of high school. Told in alternating first-person points of view, it’s centred on how their developing friendship affects their lives.