Monday, September 5, 2016

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Holding Up the Universe
Jennifer Niven
projected publication date October 2016
3/5 stars

Holding Up the Universe follows outsider Libby, once known as "America's Fattest Teen", and popular Jack who is secretly suffering from prosopagnosia (the inability to recognize faces).  Due to a high school prank, the two find themselves in counselling together, and begin to really know each other for who they are.

The story is told from the alternating points-of-view of Jack and Libby, and this is well done. However, I think at times Niven tries too hard to sound like a teenager, and the prose didn't always run smoothly as a result.

Niven says in her letter to the reader that her message for this book is "You are wanted.  You are necessary. You are loved."  This is certainly something that teens need to hear often, and for that I applaud her, and give this book three stars.

On the other hand, Holding Up the Universe  is overdone.  Niven tries to tackle too many issues.  She includes mental illness, sexuality, obesity, and bullying.   In addition, Jack's ability to hide his prosopagnosia is simply not believable.

I think if Niven had taken one teenager or the other, and paired them with a typical teenager, the story would have been more credible and gripping.  As it is, there is just too much going on for the novel to be cohesive and meaningful.

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