A month or so ago, a librarian friend was cleaning out her office and let me have a bunch of YA ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) and novels that had been taking up space. One of the ARCs was the recently released Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven. I finally got around to doing some reading now that my semester is over and I am taking some time to read for pleasure before starting my thesis. And what a pleasure reading this book was.
This is a book told in alternating points of view, a format I don’t usually like, but in this case, both main characters are so well drawn that I was completely invested in each one’s story. Libby is a high school junior, returning to school for the first time after being homeschooled. At age eleven, Libby lost her mother to a sudden cerebral hemorrhage. The trauma of that loss, coupled with bullying and other factors, caused Libby to become what would be known as “America’s Fattest Teen.” She has lost a good deal of weight, and has undergone counseling, and wants to find a “normal” life.
Jack is hiding a secret from his world – he suffers from prosopagnosia, a condition in which a person can’t remember faces. He has figured out “identifiers” so that no one knows they are strangers to him on a daily basis. As a result of a stupid challenge within his group of friends, Jack does something mean to Libby, she decks him, and they end up having to participate in group therapy together.
But what they learn as they get to know each other is that their lives intertwine in ways neither one had expected, and the twists and turns of the plot engage the reader to root for the developing relationship between the two. Holding Up the Universe is about how we see the world and each other, and how sometimes, meeting one person can change your whole world (and theirs).
Definitely read this book.