Contemporary Young Adult
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Available October 4th
Source: ARC from publisher for review
THE STORY (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 in new and bad-ass 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.
Holding Up the Universe is both an extraordinary and everyday story, one about young people who struggle to get through their day sometimes but who wake up and strap on their armor anyway, ready to battle the dragons that await them.
Libby and Jack's story opens with a letter from Jack letting us know he's about to do something that will surely not endear us to him, and as soon as we meet Libby on the following page, it doesn't take a huge mental leap to guess it's going to have something to do with her weight. Despite having lost hundreds of pounds, Libby is still overweight and returning to high school for the first time after being homeschooled due to her health issues, and we can't help but want to give Jack a resounding smack in the face for the stress he causes us (not to mention the fear and humiliation he causes Libby) as we wait for the event he mentioned in his letter to come to pass.
Though it sounds as though it will be easy to hate Jack for inflicting emotional pain on someone whose had her more than her fair share of it already, Ms. Niven lets us in Jack's head for nearly 70 pages before "the event' takes place, and our time there lets us see that he's dealing with his own unique battle. While that of course doesn't excuse his actions, his affable nature and sincere apology to Libby go a long way in earning our forgiveness, as does Libby's reaction to him. Where she could hold a grudge and seek to hurt him the way he hurt her, she instead proves herself to be the bigger person (no pun intended) and looks more closely at him in a way that everyone around them fails to do for them both.
What unfolds after they're forced to do community service for the school is a beautiful friendship and eventual romance, both of them so impressively good-natured despite their struggles that we can't help but smile along with them as they put brave faces on for the world but allow one another a peek behind the curtain.
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.