Holding Up the Universe
by Jennifer Niven
Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. 391 pages. Young Adult
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
Jack is part of the “in” crowd, going along
with the pranks and jokes, but his cool-guy behavior is just a façade
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.
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.