Book Review | Holding Up the Universe
Title: Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
Genres: YA, Contemporary, Romance
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers (Oct. 4, 2016)
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.
What I Thought
*I received this book in exchange for an honest review. A huge thank you to Blogging for Books and the publisher!*
I’ve been hearing so many wonderful things about Jennifer Niven’s books lately! So, when I saw Blogging for Books had copies of Holding Up the Universe available, I decided to give it a try.
From very early on, I was drawn into the story and the characters. Jack was the typical popular guy on the outside, but we discover that it is actually because he has prosopagnosia, which is face blindness. I, myself, do not have prosopagnosia, so I don’t know if Jack’s character is an accurate portrayal, that being said, based off the book’s descriptions, I really felt like I was able to get into Jack’s head. I felt the confusion he felt every time someone came up to him. The difficulties felt very real, and I feel like I gained a better understanding of what being face blind is like.
I found Libby to be a very relatable character as well. While she was faced with struggles, I loved that she didn’t let her past define her. Another thing I loved was her passion for dance. She didn’t let herself be filled with the preconceived notions of how a dancer should look or act. Libby simply let the music flow through her, and expressed herself, which is what dancing is truly all about (although I admit, the ballet dancer in me cringed a little when she wore pointe shoes even though she had no real ballet training. Regardless of age, weight, whatever, please don’t wear pointe shoes unless you have been properly trained – you will break your ankles!). The love of dance was so inspiring, and it really meant a lot to me, personally.
Another thing I really liked was the positive portrayal of Libby’s counselor. Too many times in the media, I feel like therapists and counselors are portrayed as distant and disconnected, or only for “crazy” people. To see a counselor portrayed in such a natural, positive, and real way was so refreshing! Rachel was there to talk to Libby and help her work through her problems, and I really liked the relationship they shared.
Now, Jack and Libby’s relationship! I honestly wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first. The further on I read, though, the more I fell in love. 😍
I loved the message this book brought. Yes, it was a love story, but I feel like it was so much more than that. Holding Up the Universe is about more than just Jack and Libby falling in love. It’s about self-acceptance. We all have our issues and flaws, but we are all important and so worthy. Don’t let others tell you who you can and can’t be. Be yourself. I really loved this quote, and I feel like it summed up the book perfectly:
Dear friend, You are not a freak. You are wanted. You are necessary. You are the only you there is. Don’t be afraid to leave the castle. It’s a great big world out there.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was filled with lovely characters, and an even lovelier message. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good contemporary novel!