Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed America's Fattest Teen. But no one has 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 in new and bad-ass ways, 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.
From the Hardcover edition.
Published October 4th 2016 by Listening Library
Four stars: A wonderful story about courage, strength, love and finding true friends.
Libby tries to squash the butterflies in her tummy. Today, she is returning to high school after a long period of isolation. Libby was once America's fattest teen. At thirteen, she had to be cut from her house and removed with a crane. Now she is sixteen, skinnier and ready to face the world. Will Libby be able to take on the cruel world? Will she find friends, new beginnings and perhaps even love? Meanwhile, Jack Masselin has another problem. He seems to have it all. He is popular, charming, cool and he has many friends, but Jack has a secret. He suffers from prosopagnosia: face blindness. Jack can't recognize the faces of anyone, even his family. Jack has learned to hide his illness, and no one knows his secret. That is all about to change when Jack and Libby's worlds collide. Can these two opposites ever be friends?
What I Liked:
- I essentially went into Holding Up the Universe blind. I wasn't aware of the drama surrounding the original synopsis and all the hype. I am glad that I didn't have any expectations going in because I enjoyed this story. I thought this read was positive, courageous and that it had so many uplifting messages for all readers. Definitely take a chance on this one.
- Let's get to the heart and soul of this book and that is Libby Strout. Libby lost her mother when she was ten, and then she was bullied at school about her weight. Libby then developed an eating problem and she soon found herself isolated unable to leave her home due to her weight. These days, Libby has shed a lot of the weight, and she is ready to reach for her dreams, starting with going to high school. I was so surprised by Libby. I was expecting her to be meek and mild, completely self conscious about her size. However, Libby was exactly the opposite. This girl is unforgettable. She is brave, unafraid, and ready to take on the bullies. I loved her spunk, her sass and her sheer determination. This girl has heart and I couldn't help but love her. We need more characters like Libby. She is one of a kind, and I LOVED her. I was thrilled that this book wasn't about Libby's weight, instead it was about her character, and who she was inside.
- Jack took a bit more time to warm up to, but I found I enjoyed him as well. I was fascinated by his condition: prosopagnosia or face blindness. It was interesting and sad to see him constantly not able to recognize the people around him, even his own family. Jack isn't exactly genuine in the beginning, but as the book progresses, he becomes more likeable, especially when he comes to terms with his condition. I loved that he truly saw Libby, and he never got hung up on her weight. He ended up being a stand up guy. Plus, I loved the way he looked after his younger brother, Dusty. Dusty was charming and adorable, and I liked that he, too, wasn't afraid to be himself.
- The romance is nice and sweet. It takes it's time developing at a slow, perfect pace. I loved that it started out with the two completely at odds, enemies even. Then it turns into a friendship and an alliance: Jack and Libby against the world, before it blossoms into something pure and sweet. The romance was wonderful.
- I liked the positive messages in this book and the issues the author tackled. I loved the message about self esteem, and that everyone was wanted. I thought the author did a great job with the material, and I appreciated that this ended up being a positive read. Definitely a read I would recommend for teen readers.
- I listened to the audiobook version, and I am not sure I would have loved this as much if I had read it. This one features two narrators: Jorjeana Marie and Robbie Daymond. Both of them did an excellent job in bringing Libby and Jack to life. I highly recommend the audio version.
And The Not So Much:
- I think what held this one back is that the author introduced many different ideas and story threads that she didn't expand fully upon or follow through to the end. I was disappointed many times because I wanted to know what exactly that letter Jack wrote said. I also wanted to see more of the aftermath between Jack and his family when he comes clean. I wished that Libby's dance group dream was followed through to fruition, and I wanted to see how things fared for Dusty. I wish the author had taken more time to flesh out and expand upon many aspects of this story, it would have boosted it up to a five star read.
- I was a bit put off at Jack's sudden realization at the end when he could suddenly remember a certain face. How was that possible? I wanted so much more on Jack's condition, and I wanted to see how he moved forward.
- The ending though nice and sweet, was too open and it left too many themes unfinished. This book needs a sequel.
Holding Up the Universe seems to be a book that is generating a great deal of buzz both positive and negative. I personally loved the story, and I adored Libby Strout. I would recommend ignoring the hype and going into this one blind so you can savor and enjoy the story. It isn't a perfect book, but I appreciated the positivity and the strong messages the author conveyed. This is a book for everyone, I want more people to read this because I hope that we can all glean some important life facts from this one, and perhaps it will remind us to all be a bit kinder to one another.
I borrowed a copy of this book from the library. All opinions are my own, and I was not compensated for this review.