Holding Up the Universe
by Jennifer Niven
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: Oct. 4, 2016
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.
Holding Up the Universe is a very powerful story. I could not have asked for more from it.
Holding Up the Universe is the story of two teens who both struggle with their bodies. Libby has always been on the bigger side. However, after her mother suddenly passes away from an aneurysm, Libby turns to food. Which resulted in her weighing 653lbs and needing to be evacuated from her house via a crane. Even though she’s lost a lot of the weight, she’s still viewed upon as the “fat girl” and she struggles with that every day. Meanwhile, Jack is the popular kid who everyone knows. The only problem is, he doesn’t recognize anyone, not even his own family. He has something called Prosopagnosia which is essentially face blindness. He kind of falls on the extreme side to where he can not recognize anyone and has to use identifiers (hair, skin color, voice) in order to “recognize” the person. Both of these teens struggle with their own problems and come from two completely different social circles, but they somehow come together and form a friendship.
I’m honestly a little speechless right now. I’m sure my review is just going to be a rambling mess but bear with me. A lot of people are going to go into reading HUtU because they have read the author’s other novel, All the Bright Places. I have not read that book… yet. So, I went into this story with a clean slate and no idea what I was going to get. All I can say is WOW! I just can’t believe how much depth is in this story. I mean, sure you can read it and just see a “fat girl” bumbling through school and a popular boy who can’t immediately recognize people and chalk it up to an attempt of the author trying to be “diverse” but if that’s the case, then you are not looking at the story close enough.
I just want to start off by saying that this is not a fat shaming book. This is not the author creating disorders and exploiting them in order to sell books. In the beginning of the book the author wrote a letter to the readers talking about the characters we are about to meet. The author struggled with her weight and thus was bullied in school. Her sixteen year old cousin has prosopagnosia and struggles with the same things as Jack. So, to sit there and say that this book is shallow or that the author is trying to cash in on something is just outright ludicrous. I do not have prosopagnosia, nor have I struggled with my weight in the sense that Libby does in the book. However, this book still managed to touch me deeply. And all I can imagine is, to the readers out there who are like Jack and Libby, this is their book. You are not alone, and most importantly YOU ARE WANTED!
You are not a freak. You are wanted. You are necessary. You are the only you there is. Don’t be afraid to leave the castle. It’s a great big world out there.
Love, a fellow reader.”