Seriously, I’m not sure I can even get past the news that Brad Pitt has a disorder that prevents him from recognizing faces. According to Holding up the Universe, one in every 50 people has this disorder, and I’m overwhelmed with this information.
Brad Pitt must be so surprised every time he looks in the mirror! Or when he sees his handsome friends, beautiful children, or gorgeous ex-wives.
I really can’t get over this.
Like Brad, one of the two narrators of this book has prosopagnosia, otherwise known as face blindness. Cool guy Jack Masselin tries to keep his problem a secret, but its hard. He has trouble recognizing his friends at school, and recently found himself in hot water when he was found kissing his girlfriend’s cousin at a party. He didn’t mean to kiss her, he thought it was his girlfriend. But he never tells anyone that. He just takes a lot of screaming and yelling from his not-so-nice girlfriend.
Our other narrator, Libby Strout, was once a YouTube sensation known as the World’s Fattest Teen. After her mother’s sudden death, Libby found solace in food and became anxious whenever she left the house. So she didn’t. Until one day she had a panic attack and had to be cut out of her own home and lifted by a crane into a rescue truck. Since then, Libby has lots several hundred pounds, but is still fat. But she’s ready to face the world again, and let everyone know that there’s more to her than just her weight.
Jack and Libby meet under questionable circumstances on the first day of school, and are forced to spend time together by the principal and guidance team after an incident involving both of them. Jack opens up to Libby and Libby tells Jack everything on her mind.
OF COURSE THEY FALL IN LOVE. Honestly, that’s a given.
But because this book is written by Jennifer Niven, who made me ugly cry with her debut novel, All the Bright Places, its not going to be easy for these two. There’s going to be bullying, mean girls, embarrassing and upsetting instances of mistaken identity, and general teenage angst keeping these two apart.
Its worth it, though. The writing is realistic — funny and sad and upsetting and uplifting all at the same time. I loved Libby bursting into tears during Drivers Ed, realizing that she has so much freedom in her life, and isn’t a prisoner in her own mind anymore. I was really moved by Jack’s love for his little brother, Dusty, who carries a purse to school and can’t deal with people “who are shitty.”
Did everything work? Of course not. Jack’s Queen Bee girlfriend was a bit one-note. I didn’t love Libby’s big purple bikini scene — I know it was meant to be liberating, but it kind of fell flat for me. I didn’t buy that popular, beautiful Bailey would suddenly have two social outcasts sitting at her cafeteria table every day and not even question it. And I had no need for Jack’s dad and his whole mess of problems.
But Libby made Jack a better person, and Jack made Libby realize how great she was. And that’s good enough for me.