Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 4th 2016
Source: Publisher Provided
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I received this book/movie for free from the above-listed publisher/studio in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book/movie or the content of my review.
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.
Libby and Jack. Two more unlikely friends or for that matter, foes. This was a difficult book to read, and I imagine it was difficult to write. Libby is a girl who is famous in her small town for one thing — her weight. She literally had to be cut out of her own house because of a medical emergency. Jack has prosopagnosia (face blindness), which is an inability to recognize faces. They have so much in common and yet, the don’t. Libby’s world was her house, Dad, fat camps and trying to cope with her mother’s death. Jack’s world was dealing with his father’s cancer, his father’s affair (with Jack’s chem teacher) and fitting in with his friends. And then there is his constant struggle to associate features, so he can recognize his friends.
In the midst of their inner and outer struggles, Libby re-enrolls in her high school, hoping that she isn’t recognized by her former classmates. Those scenes of awkwardness and worry were written so well. Jennifer captured the inner voice of a teen girl determined to fit in and go through unrecognized and unscathed. But in a cruel twist, Jack’s friends decide to play a stupid challenge. And I do mean stupid. It literally brings the two characters together and the plot becomes intertwined in their lives.
Sure, there are some very predictable things that happen, but I still enjoyed them. I haven’t read Jennifer’s All the Bright Places, but it is on my TBR. I know fans of her writing will enjoy Holding Up the Universe, but so will people who enjoyed books that deal with characters changing their own internal dialogues and learning to be their individual selves. It’s a quick read that may take you a sitting or two to finish. I loved how Jennifer brought the loose ends of the plot around into a sweeter ending than I initially expected.