I have literally just finished this book and I only started it yesterday. It is 388 pages of sheer joy. I really super enjoyed All the Bright Places and wanted to really like this one too. In fact I read my review of ATBP just now to remind myself of why I liked it and at the end of it I wrote, ‘this book is life affirming’. Well hold on to your hats people, this one is even better!
The book is written as a split narrative by Jake and Libby. Jake is a bit of a high school player. He has an on again off again girlfriend (see mean girls everywhere) and we first meet him through a letter he writes to Libby. Libby is the other narrator. In the letter, Jake tells Libby that he has a disorder called Prosopagnosia. It means that he cannot recognize peoples faces, ever. But, no one else knows that he’s got it so he can’t recognize his family, or friends or his girlfriend and he has a series of identifying features that means he knows who they are. For example he assumes that his parents are his parents because they are in his house every day. There is also his adorable brother Dusty, who wants to carry a purse (I think this is American speak for handbag) to school and gets beaten up for it and another brother called Marcus. He exudes this kind of confidence which is just a front for the fact that he cannot recognize anyone.
Libby is famous for being fat. Not just fat but so fat that they had to knock down half her house to get her out because she was too fat to fit through the door. She was hospitalized and hasn’t been to school for years. Before the house incident she was home schooled by her dad after her mum died from a massive brain hemorrhage. She has since lost 300 pounds (21 stone!) and has decided to get back in the game and go back to school. There she confronts the bullies who picked on her when she was 10 and after an unfortunate incident with Jack in the cafeteria, finds herself in detention for a few weeks. The POV of Jack is written so well that I would almost believed that the author had the condition herself.
What follows is an unconventional love story, but one that will warm your heart. It’s a little bit like Thanks for the Trouble in that it is redemptive. Both Libby and Jack need to be saved in different ways. Libby might not look like she needs much help; she’s smart and sassy and wants to take on the world, but she needs to feel valued and Jack helps her to do that. Jacks needs are more obvious. He needs help with his disorder and figuring out how he is going to get through life dealing with it.
Jennifer Niven writes in such a way that you will want to read on and on until the last page, and then miss the book and the characters once you’ve finished. I already miss Jack and Libby and their crazy world. I miss the way that Jack describes Libby as being full of sunshine. I miss the way she goes through life hurting but willing to fix things, to change things. There are the usual mix of the mean girls and stupid jocks and geeks and nerds and bullies, but there is also Jack and Libby; and they are perfect for each other.
I know that you will love this book. I know that you will read it and take these two into your geeky booky hearts and keep them there. They deserve it, and you deserve to enjoy it with them. But I also want you to feel sorry for those people that say ‘I hate reading’ because they will never get to experience what you have just experienced.
Spread the word.