Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven – Book Review


I love Jennifer Niven and when I heard she’s publishing another book, I immediately picked it up. Sadly (and a lot of other book people understand this), I’ve got a TBR pile on the verge of burying me in books sitting around waiting to be read. While it took me a few months to finally get to this book, I’m so glad I finally got to read this.

28686840Synopsis (from Goodreads.com) – 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.

Rating: 4/5 stars

My thoughts – I’ve actually got a lot of thoughts about this book. To give you a brief explanation of this book, it’s about the pressures of fitting in high school and the problem we have with bullying. Two people, Libby and Jack, are both thrown into the high school experience in different ways. While Libby is verbally abused because of her weight, Jack hides himself and his disability to avoid the kind of ridicule Libby receives. Jack is considered “popular” while Libby is known for being pulled out of her own house by a crane.

The writing itself is very convincing. I’m always skeptic about writers writing from the opposite sex (male writing a female character’s point of view and vice versa), but Niven did an excellent job creating a voice for both Jack and Libby.

I think the only reason why I didn’t give the book a full 5/5 stars is because at some points I wasn’t really sure why Niven decided to go the way she did. Also, there’s some messing around with mental health. Libby “lets herself go” because she’s grieving her mother’s death. Jack has a lot of anger and gets into fights because he found out his father is cheating on his mother as well as hiding the fact he has prosopagnosia. Niven doesn’t do enough to dive into those specific areas and deals more with the bullying and finding oneself when the rest of the world feels like they’re against you. I think it would have made an interesting story to also include some therapy sessions to talk through the anger or sadness. However, not my book so I can’t judge hah.

I do want to get into the bullying aspects, but I feel like it could make up a blog post on its own. I have a lot of feelings about bullying mostly because I’m a person that faced it when I was in high school. While most people get out of high school free from those bullies, there are some people who are really affected by their high school years. Jack and Libby are two examples of people who were able to rise up against their bullies and find themselves. Not everyone is that lucky and I wonder if there was a possible way to show that without taking away from the story.

Either way, if you’re a high school student dealing with questions of your own existence or faced with bullying at school, I think this would be a good book to help you overcome it or help you feel like you are wanted.


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