Holding Up The UniverseTitle: Holding Up the Universe

Author: Jennifer Niven

Pages: 400 Pages

Publisher: Penguin Books

The Blurb

From the author of the New York Times bestseller All the Bright Places comes a heart-wrenching story about what it means to see someone – and love someone – for who they truly are. 

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 see who she really is. Since her mum’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.

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 art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a 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, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his own 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 counselling, Libby and Jack are both angry, 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.

The Review

I really loved Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places yet it took me an awfully long time after the release of Holding Up the Universe to pick it up and start reading. What a fool I have been. If at all possible I enjoyed Holding Up the Universe more than Niven’s debut.

The story revolves around Jack and Libby – two teenagers who have their own battles to face. Libby is a big girl. She was formerly known as America’s Fattest Teenager. Jack has a rare medical condition called Prosopagnosia which renders him unable to recognise faces.

Through both of their difficulties they manage to find comfort in each other but this is high school and we all know that school kids can be cruel. This is a story of young love, coming of age and finding yourself.

What I love about YA fiction is that it is so diverse that it presents the reader with something that they may have never heard of. I have never heard of Prosopagnosia so I am almost certain that the students I work with will not have done either. They will have heard of obesity and may have even made cruel comments towards people with weight issues. It is books like Holding Up the Universe that help create empathy and highlight the differences in people. Holding up the Universe is the kid of books that young people need to read.

I can genuinely say that Holding Up the Universe is one of the most impactful books that I have read in 2017.

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven is available now.

For more information regarding Jennifer Niven (@jenniferniven) please visit www.jenniferniven.com.

For more information regarding Penguin Books (@PenguinUKBooks) please visit www.penguin.co.uk.

4 Stars

My Name is LeonTitle: My Name is Leon

Author: Kit de Waal

Pages: 254 Pages

Publisher: Penguin Books UK

The Blurb

A brother chosen. A brother left behind. And a family where you’d least expect to find one.

Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to give Jake to strangers. Since Jake is white and Leon is not. As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile – like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, burying his hands deep in the soil, hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad), and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum.

Evoking a Britain of the early eighties, My Name is Leon is a heart-breaking story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between siblings. And how – just when we least expect it – we manage to find our way home.

The Review

My Name is Leon is the debut novel from Kit de Waal; an exciting new voice in the world of literature. It is the story of Leon, a young boy who has to cope with one of the cruellest hands that life can deal. Leon and his younger brother Jake are put into care after it is deemed that their mother Carol cannot look after them, but in a cruel twist of fate a new family want to adopt Jake and leave Leon behind. This is the heartbreaking story of a young boy whose confusion is echoed by the rioting backdrop of Thatcherite Britain.

It is clear from the first page that My Name is Leon is something special. Told from Leon’s perspective, as the reader you are completely immersed in how he is feeling about things. Leon’s anger, confusion and frustration are palpable and the story had my heart pulsing with empathy on several occasions.

I found myself getting angry on behalf of Leon. Angry by the way the social workers tried to manipulate his feelings, angry that he was rejected because of the colour of his skin and angry that nothing was explained to Leon. Nothing. It was awful to read but it is important. My Name is Leon is an important novel.

My Name is Leon is one of the best books that I have read in 2016. The foster system has been explored many times in novels but I would be hard pressed to find one that deals with the topic so well and so brutally honest.

My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal is available now.

For more information regarding Kit de Waal (@KitdeWaal) please visit www.kitdewaal.com.

For more information regarding Penguin Books UK (@PenguinUKBooks) please visit www.penguin.co.uk.

5 Stars