I enjoyed the heartbreaking All the Bright Places so when I saw Jennifer Niven’s follow up, Holding Up the Universe, I snapped it up. Niven again focuses on two teens who, up until now, have had no reason to spend any time together but are weighed down by similar stories.
Jack Masselin is a popular high school baseball player with an on again off again relationship with the star of the drill team. He also has Prosopagnosia, a disorder where you cannot recognize faces even the faces of loved ones and family members. He has managed to get through life without anyone finding out his secret but it has gotten increasingly more difficult to hide.
Libby Strout spent the last several years confined to her home and was dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen” after her house was destroyed in an attempt to get her outside. She has lost over half her body weight, although she is still overweight, and has re-enrolled in school.
“People are shitty for a lot of reasons. Sometimes they’re just shitty people. Sometimes people have been shitty to them and, even though they don’t realize it, they take that shitty upbringing and go out into the world and treat others the same way. Sometimes they’re shitty because they’re afraid. Sometimes they choose to be shitty to others before others can be shitty to them. So it’s like self-defensive shittiness.”
Our two protagonists, who split narration duties, have an uncomfortable meet-cute but naturally find themselves growing closer after being sentenced to after school community service together. Jack opens up about his Prosopangnosia and Libby finds someone she can let her guard down around. Niven is an excellent writer and proof that YA is a legitimate genre that adults can enjoy without embarrassment; while I may have enjoyed Bright Places more this is an excellent follow up that I would highly recommend.