"I know what you're thinking- if you hate it so much and it's such a burden, just lose the weight, and then that job will go away. But I'm comfortable where I am. I may lose more weight. I may not. But why should what I weigh affect other people? I mean, unless I'm sitting on them, who cares?"
Jennifer Niven's All the Bright Places was the first book I read last year, and it was totally fantastic. It also made me sob and cry so much. So. Much. Crying. I can still think of the book even now and start to tear up. Granted, I cry very easily and am experiencing an attack of hormones at the moment, but still. The book resonates.
This brings us to Niven's newest book, Holding Up the Universe. It's alternately narrated by two teenagers, Libby and Jack. Libby used to be the world's fattest teenager. The tipping point came when she had a panic attack and the paramedics had to destroy her house to get her out. Now, she has lost half of her body weight and is about to attend regular school for the first time in years.
Jack seems normal, but he recently realized that he has prosopagnosia. This is a condition where a person cannot recognize faces, even faces of family and friends. This condition caused him to hook up with his girlfriend's cousin (They are physically very similar). If that wasn't enough, Jack also recently discovered that his dad is cheating on his mom with one of the teachers at his school.
Libby's return to school doesn't go very well. She reunited with her old friend Bailey, and befriends fellow large girl Iris. Most of the other kids stare, point, and laugh. Even though Libby isn't as fat as she was, she's still the fattest girl in school. She dreams of being accepted, of joining the school's dance team. A cruel prank puts her in Jack's path, and leads to the two of them being forced to attend detention/counseling. Libby and Jack start to bond. They even sort of like-like each other! He even tells her about his prosopagnosia, and she encourages him to seek help. Their relationship is really sweet and adorable, though there are some challenges and rocky times before the end.
Holding Up the Universe was very good, pretty much just as good as All the Bright Things. Thankfully, it was less emotionally devastating. That isn't to say that I didn't cry, because I almost always cry. I also laughed and swooned a fair bit. As a fellow big girl, it was nice to read about an overweight character. Libby was bold and extroverted, basically the opposite of me. I love her positive attitude and her fearlessness. Jack sometimes acted like a dumb guy, but was really sweet. He was great with his younger brother. There was a little subplot where the brother used to carry a purse to school, and some kids broke the strap. Jack was just so sweet and supportive. It's a nice story about accepting other people and their differences, about bullying and how we should not do that, and also a sweet and funny romance. So, you should read it.
I received my copy of Holding Up the Universe from Edelweiss, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers. It's available for purchase now.