Holding the Universe
by Jennifer Niven
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 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.
Jennifer Niven delivers another poignant, exhilarating love story about finding that person who sees you for who you are—and seeing them right back.
Honest, emotional and heart-warming, Jennifer Niven’s latest book is a refreshing contemporary about body image, peer pressure and what love can do.
Libby is fat. She knows it but I admired her strength. This whole book is about strength. She is bullied all throughout the book and she handles it LIKE A BOSS!!!! Not only does she ignore it, she actively speaks against it. What I especially loved about this book, is that way it points out that she is not a stereotype. The stereotype of ‘sassy fat girl’ or ‘fat best friend’, Libby actively tries not to fall into people’s expectations which I absolutely admired. At the same time, she has this great relationship with her Dad which I just enjoyed reading. They both share such a deep bond. At the end, Libby realises she hasn’t been sharing as much with her Dad and I love how Niven dedicates a scene where the both of them just tell each other everything. The book also explores how people yearn to be wanted. Libby is bullied constantly about not being wanted because of her weight. Libby smashes that, declaring to the world that anyone is wanted despite weight, size, skin colour, height, ethnicity. In short, Libby is the modern-day heroine we all want to be.
Jack cannot recognise faces but he’s managed to keep it secret. Jack is a complex character. He’s cool, swag and seems to have everything but whilst Libby deals with the question of being wanted, Jack deals with the fact that he may be a shitty person. He definitely is but I didn’t dislike him. He’s not the douche character I normally hate. He’s a douche that know he’s one and tries to amend that. Libby has a great relationship with her father but in Jack’s case, he has a great relationship with his young brother, Dusty. It’s Dusty that makes Jack realise that he may not actually be a good person and keeps him in check. I loved the fresh innocence and honesty that Dusty brought to the story. Jack also has strength of his own. Niven’s incorporation of prosopagnosia in the novel was definitely original. Reading about Jack’s was of memorizing faces was interesting and I realised how much brain-work that would require. That is his strength, being able to deal with such a rare disease. It’s fascinating, really.
The book doesn’t narrowly focus on their romance. Instead, the story focuses on both their personal dilemmas and how it brings them together. Jack learns from Libby’s immense strength and how he should become a better person and additionally, their romance helps Libby realise that she is wanted. I love that their romance did not involve a lot of physical stuff. A lot of romance novels, emphasis the hot and heavy attraction between the characters but this novel really concentrated on Jack and Libby’s respect and affection for each other’s spirit. The writing is beautifully crafted, bringing together a range of issues together to create a gorgeous story about love and self-acceptance.
In short, READ THIS BOOK.
It’s a must-read for every teenager out there!! Doesn’t matter if you’re big or small, tall or short. This book is for everyone out there to send a message that they are wanted.