Thursday, October 27, 2016

Holding up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Summary 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, 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.
This book resonated so strongly with me. As did Niven’s first YA book. I kind of bought it on a whim (shoot, I’m pretty sure I forgot to include it in my A Good Week in Books post…oh well). Basically, I had a nice, lazy, day to run errands and shop for what I needed before meeting up with my boyfriend for a dinner date. I finished the book I had been reading at lunch-time. I had a couple of hours to spare and there was a handy local bookstore just sitting there, with this book on display.
Before I knew it, I had a couple of minutes to get to the restaurant and I had read almost half the book. I connected to Libby on so many levels. I was once picked on for being a little more overweight than my middle school peers. And since those years, my weight has been up and down. I’m currently on a whole “no carbs/low sugar” diet/way of life. And it felt like the perfect time to pick up a book with some one else changing their eating way of life too.  While, I have never been as overweight as Libby, I felt for her and felt like I understood her. And my guess is most women probably will.
I also ended up liking Jack way more than I was expecting to. I felt so much empathy for him and what he felt he couldn’t share with his family. It reminded me of this kid I knew in elementary school who kind of kept getting away without knowing how to read. Jack was able to pretend to not have a neurological disorder, but he got into so much trouble for things that could have been avoided, if people knew about it. He pretty much stayed with this awful girlfriend for so long because it was usually really easy for him to recognize her (“usually” being the operative word).
I liked that Libby and Jack could share what was really going on with each other. But, I also like that Libby was healing first without Jack. She had lost hundreds of pounds before even starting school up again. And I loved how brave she was. Jack was never as brave as Libby. In fact, he came off as cruel a lot of the time. And while he disorder didn’t excuse him for being a jerk, it did clear up a lot of things for me. And I like that Libby made him want to not be a jerk.
I loved the characters’ relationships with their families (particularly Libby and her dad). There was a nice balance between school, family, romance, and healing.
I was kind of expecting this book to be as emotionally rollercoaster-ish as the first YA book by this author. It wasn’t though. It was actually a lot more upbeat. And I loved this about it. I loved how unexpectedly fun and witty it was. I wasn’t expecting to read it so quickly either. All in all, I was very impressed. I give it a 9/10.

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