Libby Strout is no longer “America’s fattest teen,” but her biggest fear in returning to school for the first time since fifth grade is that her classmates won’t look past her weight. Nonetheless, she’s ready to leave the house where she’s been grieving her mother’s death, and embrace everything high school has to offer. Meanwhile, Jack Masselin’s devil-may-care attitude may seem effortless, but nobody knows how hard he has to work, because nobody knows about his face blindness—how, even among his closest friends, he feels as though he’s surrounded by strangers. That is, until a vicious prank lands Jack and Libby in the same counseling group, and they’re forced to see beyond each other’s masks.
Jennifer Niven’s Holding Up the Universe is another bright place for fans of her bestselling YA debut, All the Bright Places. Niven once again introduces two protagonists who, at first glance, have little reason to cross paths, but who are uniquely positioned to help each other repair their broken pieces. These characters may be facing extreme circumstances, but their conflicting emotions will be utterly relatable to teen readers.
Niven treats her protagonists with admirable respect, tackling the issues that seem so big in high school with prose that dances on the line between seriousness and whimsy. Holding Up the Universe is a perfect fall read to inspire readers to embrace the new school year.