NZ Intermediate School Librarians discussion

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Books for Yr 7/8 students (2017) > Holding up the universe, Jennifer Niven

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message 1: by Bridget (new)

Bridget Hayes | 3 comments I enjoyed this book but am still unsure about whether to stock it or not. I can't remember anything obvious and overt that would stop me in the boy/girl relationships and I think learning to accept and getting to know others for who they are is an important message and understanding that just because you can't see a disability it doesn't mean it's not there, but there's something niggling as to whether it's more of a Yr 9+ book. I'd be interested to know what others think.

If I had a Yr 8 only section I'd be more comfortable, but looking at the new Year 7's now I don't think they'd fully understand the themes and I wouldn't want them reading it. If I'm looking at the age of the characters then it's probably not suitable - any thoughts?


message 2: by Penny (new)

Penny | 25 comments I haven't read this book but in regards to Y8 only, we do have some books which we've slapped a Y8 only sticker on the front. Seems to work quite well! The books still live in our Y7/8 area.


message 3: by Jane (new)

Jane (janeboniface) | 123 comments Hi Bridget, like Penny I haven't read this book either, but I have read "All the Bright Places" by the same author which deals with depression and teen suicide. This book is in our "Young Adults" section at our Intermediate, although there is no restriction on Year 7's borrowing from this collection.
Re "Holding Up the Universe", I see that Commonsense Media rate it 5 stars but indicate it is for 14 years plus. Here is their review:
"Parents need to know that Holding Up the Universe deals frankly with fat-shaming, bullying, depression, and peer pressure. It's another patient, emotionally complex story by author Jennifer Niven (All the Bright Places). Her two teen heroes both have difficult histories: Libby's mother died unexpectedly, and Libby, who is white, is terrified of dying herself. Jack, who is biracial, is full of secrets: that he has a disorder that makes even loved ones unrecognizable, and that his father, in remission from cancer, has been carrying on an affair with a teacher at Jack's school. There's frank talk about sexual attraction and desire, and there's some making out, frequent strong language (including "f--k" and "s--t"), and some drinking and drug use. It's a harsh but clear-eyed look at what's on the mind of teens, and messages of resilience, courage, and joy shine through."

So, with that in mind I don't think I would buy it for our library, but I think it sounds like a really good book for a High School library. Jennifer Niven is certainly a great author, who can deal sensitively with difficult issues.


message 4: by Bridget (new)

Bridget Hayes | 3 comments Thanks Jane - not sure what this says about my language as I have no recollection of frequent strong language!! Oops! I haven't bought it, wouldn't have minded my daughter reading it but don't like to take that decision for the school!


message 5: by Jane (new)

Jane (janeboniface) | 123 comments ha ha. Water off a duck's back perhaps? ;-) I think the Commonsense Media site does err on the side of conservative caution, but it is a useful guide though. :-)


message 6: by NZBook (new)

NZBook Girl | 6 comments I am in an intermediate school and I have been putting 'senior fiction' stickers onto anything YA, which is what I will do if I get the Jennifer Niven books. I give each class a talk at the beginning of the year and warn them that books with that sticker have content for older readers, boy/girl relationships, maybe violence, or just more complex stories. I say that if you are someone who has enjoyed things like Divergent, The Hunger Games, john Green books, then the SF books will probably be fine for them, but that it's a warning to think about if the content in those books is what they want to read. I also say that if Wimpy Kid is more where their interest lies then the SF books will not be for them until they progress onto more complex books. They seem to get the message. If I see someone issuing a SF book I'll sometimes comment on what sort of a book it is, and ask what else they've been reading.


message 7: by Jane (new)

Jane (janeboniface) | 123 comments OK, I've changed my mind on this book now that I have read it. I will be putting it in our "Young Adults" section (both Yr 7 & Yr 8 can borrow from this collection). I know this book will be popular with a lot of our readers, mainly our sophisticated Yr 8 girls. I really enjoyed it! Not Read Aloud material though.

Libby got so fat after the death of her mother that she could no longer get out of bed and half their house had to be demolished and a crane brought in to get her out of the house and into hospital. Now she has lost a lot of weight, although she is still big enough that people notice her - mainly drawing negative attention. Jack is one of the cool guys at school but he is hiding a secret - he has Prosopagnosia - the inability to remember and recognise people's faces - even those of his family. He has come up with some bizarre coping strategies to keep his condition secret but life is becoming increasingly stressful for him. Jack and Libby literally collide at school as part of a cruel prank that Jack's friends have encouraged him to do. Libby retaliates however (because she is awesomely FIESTY) and both Jack and Libby end up doing community service for the school together. Much to their own surprise they get on really well with each other and a friendship starts. A mutual romantic attraction also develops but Libby's weight and Jack's issues mean that love is not an easy path. Libby is an amazing character, possessing courage and wisdom, and she stands up to being bullied in a spectacular way. This is an inspiring read about demanding to be accepted for what you are, and the power of supportive relationships.


message 8: by Sheryn (new)

Sheryn | 3 comments Very helpful Jane :)


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