Title: Holding Up the Universe
Author: Jennifer Niven
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
Published On: October 6th 2016
My Rating: 5 Stars
From the author of the New York Times bestseller All the Bright Places comes a heart-wrenching story about what it means to see someone - and love someone - for who they truly are. 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 see who she really is. Since her mum'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. 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 art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a 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 own 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, Libby and Jack are both angry, 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.
My Review ♥
Jennifer Niven HAS to be one of my new favorite authors. I’m actually pretty sure that I said this, or at least thought this, after reading All the Bright Places, but it is absolutely true now that I’ve read two of her books and completely adored them.
After reading AtBP, I expected this book to be SAD, and there were definitely sad aspects of this book and tragic stuff, but overall, Holding Up the Universe has a super feel-good, inspirational vibe. The main points of the story seems to be self-love, acceptance of others, and being your(awesome)self.
“‘If I want to carry a purse, I’m going to carry it. I’m not going to not carry it because they don’t like it.’ And in that moment, this scrawny kid with big ears is my hero.” – Jennifer Niven, Holding Up the Universe
Libby is a incredible character who you’ll undoubtedly fall in love with- I mean, how could you not love someone so fun, kind, brave, and smart?! Libby was all those things and so much more. Libby is ALWAYS standing up for herself and for others, even when it’s really difficult and scary. Libby encouraged her friends and classmates to be themselves and to love themselves, despite insecurities and self-doubt. Libby is my new fictional hero, and her story is one you definitely need to read!
“I’m not going to be a statistic–I’ve beaten statistics for most of my life. I’m not going to be one of those drivers who gets smashed under a truck. I want to be the girl who can do anything. I want to be the girl who tries out for the MVB Damsels and makes the team.” – Jennifer Niven, Holding Up the Universe
Holding Up the Universe is told in alternating perspectives from Libby and Jack, and, while I could gush forever about how incredible Libby is, I must also gush about how wonderful Jack is as well. Jack is not a bad person, but he does some bad things, including participating in a horrible act against Libby because of her weight, but this doesn’t define him.
“So I say, ‘Sometimes people are just shitty. Sometimes they’re shitty because they’re afraid. Sometimes they choose to be shitty to others before others can be shitty to them. Like self-defensive shittiness.'” – Jennifer Niven, Holding Up the Universe
Jack has prosopagnosia, a.k.a. face-blindness, and although it is no excuse for his behavior, it does explain why he is insecure and how he was so easily pressured to do what he did. Jack starts off as a coward who can’t really stand up to his friends, mostly because he is afraid of how he’ll survive high school if he ends up on anyone’s bad-side, especially since he wouldn’t be able to recognize anyone. Libby helps Jack become more confident and to accept himself, and eventually he stands up for himself as well as for Libby.
While Holding Up the Universe is pretty focused on the relationship between Jack and Libby, it is SO much more than that. The romance is wonderful, and it is a positive example of a healthy relationship, but the story has so much more to it. Jack and Libby are more than their struggles in this book, there’s so much depth to both of their characters and stories.
“By the time I started eating–really eating– the loss was already so big it felt like I was carrying around the world. So carrying around the weight wasn’t any heavier. It was trying to carry around both that got to be too much. Which is why sometimes you have to set some of it down. You can’t carry all of it forever.” – Jennifer Niven, Holding Up the Universe
One thing I particularly loved about Holding Up the Universe was that Libby’s and Jack’s parents are not perfect people by any count (they’ve made mistakes), but they’re amazing parents, and in YA, that can be hard to find.
Both Jack and Libby struggle to accept themselves, and they both learn do just that and to celebrate who they are, not because they’ve found love, but because they’ve learned from each other’s experiences. Libby does not come to embrace herself because she has Jack, but because she’s strong and she knows who she is. They both go on their own journeys to self-love, and their journeys definitely intertwine, but Holding Up the Universe is not just a love story in the sense of finding someone to love. It’s a love story that celebrates loving yourself, your friends, and your family. It’s a love story in ALL the ways.
As the back blurb says, “You are wanted. You are necessary. You are loved.”
ALSO, THE REFERENCES IN THIS BOOK. I almost forgot to mention this! Supernatural and the Jackson 5! IT WAS SO WONDERFUL. (I just saw Niven’s twitter picture and OMG SAM AND DEAN.)