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Review: Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Title: Holding Up the Universe
Author: Jennifer Niven
Year Published: 2016

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 388
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map)USA (IN)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this from my school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): 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. Since 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. 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 art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a 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 own brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don't get too close to anyone.

Review: I've read some good reviews of this book and have to say I am fascinated by the concept of not recognizing faces so had high expectations for this book. It grabbed me on the first page. The chapters are told from Libby and Jack's perspective, alternating points of view that ultimately collide.

This is a great book for so many reasons. I liked both the main characters and can empathize and understand their behavior even when I don't like it or agree with what they said or did. Especially Jack. He is often a jerk. But so many people are in high school (and beyond) when they want to fit in and don't want to become the victims. And with Jack's disorder, he feels he always has to be on the attack. 

I also like the storyline. Coming to terms with our own actions and their intended or unintended consequences is so difficult and important and this book does that very well. It also deals with making decisions that will not be popular and that are difficult and how that feels. Everything is certainly not sunshine and light, but there are enough glimmers of goodness that the book isn't depressing. I finished it will hope even though everything doesn't wrap up neatly. Libby still weighs 300 pounds and we know she will have difficult times ahead and Jack still can't recognize anyone, but we know he is opening up about it, which will help.

Challenges for which this counts: 

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