As soon as I’d finished All The Bright Places, I knew that whatever Jennifer Niven released next was a guarantee insta-buy. Although Holding Up The Universe came out last year and it’s taken me this to get round to finally reading it, I can easily say that this book did not disappoint!
Not an inherently perfect novel, this book has flaws, just like the characters we read about inside. Thankfully, for me anyhow, this did not detract my enjoyment of the novel by any means, but I can definitely see why these might for others.
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 know who she really is. Following her mom’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. In that moment, 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 impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired 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 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 counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, 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.
This review will be spoiler free!
Holding Up The Universe really split me down the middle. On the one side because I could really relate to the character of Libby, her fears, her insecurities, her troubles, and it’s not so often that larger women are represented in YA fiction, so this was a welcome installment. And then, on the other side, I found the events of the novel to be, hard to believe, I guess? Although the characters and their personal issues and diagnoses were believable and, in my opinion, well explored, I just thought some of the events that unfolded were a bit, dubious.
One of the best parts of the novel were it’s two main characters; Jack and Libby, the book is told in their alternating points of view. I found Jack’s character quite intriguing, especially as a person who knew the basics of prosopagnosia but not any real details. In my opinion, I feel like Jennifer Niven portrayed his struggle, day in, and day out in an incredibly real fashion. His fake swagger and his attitude, all serving as the foundations for his walls that serve to hide his face blindness. Admittedly, his character is grating and I definitely had to not roll my eyes at some of his choices, but I don’t suffer from prosopagnosia, I can’t even imagine how difficult that would be – it’s not something you ever think about; not being able to even recognise your own mother.
Libby, was just too real. In the sense that I saw so much of my struggles amplified in this one character. I mean sure, I was never that overweight that I was worthy of doctor intervention but I was a larger teen and so much of what Libby thinks and feels resonated within me. These were my thoughts, my feeling whilst traversing school and I’m so glad they’re in this book, ready for everyone to read them. It’s just so refreshing to see someone of a larger size represented in a genre where everyone is typically; skinny and beautiful and practically perfect in every way. It’s someone that I didn’t have growing up and I definitely would’ve benefitted from a Libby Strout to look up to and channel in those darker times.
The book is definitely more character driven than plot, as I mentioned before, without giving spoilers away some of the plot-lines are quite bold without delving (thankfully) into the completely unrealistic manner and although the romance felt at times unnecessary, it at least felt real and believable. The two main characters are easily the driving force of this book and rightfully so, two main characters that needed to be represented in this genre. Jennifer Niven has definitely delivered in her follow up novel to the, oh so very great, All The Bright Places, and I cannot wait to see what her next book brings.
Have you read Holding Up The Universe, what were your thoughts? Let me know.