Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Holding Up the Universe

Holding Up the Universe
by Jennifer Niven
Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. 391 pages. Young Adult

Told through alternating chapters, this is the story of two teens, Libby and Jack. Libby was once the fattest teenager in the nation. They actually had to cut her out of her house to save her life. Now, three years later she is healthy, happy, and loves to dance, though others still see her as grossly overweight. Now back at school after an absence of five years, Libby is intensely nervous about whether she will be accepted by her peers.

Jack is part of the “in” crowd, going along with the pranks and jokes, but his cool-guy behavior is just a fa├žade used to keep people at a distance. Jack has prosopagnosia (face blindness) which is the inability to recognize and remember faces. He has been keeping this secret from everyone including his family. When Jack takes part in a cruel “game” called Fat Girl Rodeo, she punches him in the mouth, and they both wind up in detention. Forced to spend time together, Libby and Jack slowly begin to open up to each other. As their relationship evolves into more romantic feelings, Jack and Libby must face reactions from fellow students and their own fears and anxieties, but together they inspire each other to become stronger.

Though Libby and Jack’s stories are extreme versions of the issues teens face in high school, this is a thoughtful exploration of identity and self-acceptance filled with complex and nuanced characters. Be warned, however, there is extreme amount of foul language.

AJ

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