Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven, Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. ISBN: 9780385755924. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.
Imagine having to live with Youtube videos of you being cut free from your own bedroom because you’re too fat to get through the door. Meet Libby Strout. She fell off the emotional cliff when her mom died and by the time she was shocked back into reality, she was being billed as the ‘America’s fattest teen.’
Since that moment, Libby has worked like the devil to lower her weight. It’s been an agonizing process, but she’s down to 300, half of what she weighed at her worst. Now she wants to experience life instead of hiding from it. When a mean prank, instigated by the popular guy posse at school, backfires and Libby and the guy who tackled her, Jack Masselin, end up together in after school detention, they begin to realize a connection. Jack has an equally big issue that he’s been able to hide thanks to popularity and clowning behavior. He has prosopagnosia a neurological condition that prevents him from recognizing faces…any faces. Without having learned some subtle clues, he wouldn’t even recognize his own family members.
While Libby is ‘out’ with her weight issue, she still understands how Jack feels and the longer they hang with each other, the more connected they become, but not without pain, anger and teen drama. This is a love story, a tale of bravery and friendship as well as angst and pain and fear. In a nutshell it’s an amazing book. When, not if, you read it, take time to slow down and savor some of the dialogue between Libby and Jack because there’s a lot there to feel and remember.
It’s an excellent book for all libraries to own.