Holding up the Universe Review

Holding up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary: “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.” (Summary found on Goodreads).

Holding up the Universe is SO different from All the Bright Places. So, here’s a disclaimer, if you’re expecting heartbreak and anything remotely close to the tragedy that was AtBP, you’re not going to get it. This book is totally different. It’s about two VERY different teenagers, both with their own problems, coming together despite the differences. While there are sad parts and neither has a fantastic life, I wouldn’t say it makes a dent into the painful topic handled in All the Bright Places.

“It’s my experience that the people who are most afraid are the ones who hide behind mean and threatening words.” 

In that sense, I actually wished for it to be deeper. I really, really enjoyed it (and I read it in a day, I think) and loved the message, but it was lacking anything new. Essentially, this book is about loving yourself for who you are and that every body shape is beautiful, etc. It’s a beautiful message, but it’s been said many, many times. I was just hoping for something new, something more impactful, but maybe that’s just me.

“You might not want to burn your bridges when you’re standing on an island.”

Also, some parts seemed so beyond unbelievable that I almost laughed. Almost. Honestly, what’s the likelihood of Jack actually being able to get into Libby’s house without anyone being of concern and stealing some things. And has anyone ever been pulled out of a house with a crane? It just seemed a little too unlikely to me. But that might just be me. Plus, if I had prosopagnosia, I would probably tell my parents. I mean, wouldn’t people understand if they knew what was going on? I just didn’t understand why he continued to hide it from them when telling them could help him.

“We can’t fight another person’s battle, no matter how much we want to.”

That sounds like a lot of negatives for a four star review, but I had to get that all out first. In the end, this book was awesome. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it. I almost didn’t even put it on my TBR list, but I’m so glad I did. Libby is such a fun character with a larger than life personality and I just LOVED that. Not to mention, Jack is adorable and so sweet. The plot was interesting, dealing with everyday problems like bullying, body shape and positivity, and the struggles of trying to fit in as a teenager. Everyone is so cruel at their school and it made me so sad. Despite the problems my school has, the positive is that bullying is not nearly as prominent here.

Even if you don’t think this book sounds like it’s for you, I highly recommend you check it out. It’s beautiful, written wonderfully, and fast-paced.

Most importantly, in the words of Libby Strout, “I want you to know I’m rooting for you.’ Sometimes we need to hear that, even from a stranger.” 

-Book Hugger


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