*This is a spoiler-free review.
♡ Book Title: Holding Up The Universe.
♡ Author: Jennifer Niven.
♡ Series: Standalone.
♡ Page Count: 400 Pages (Kindle Edition).
♡ Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary & Romance.
♡ Rating: 🌟🌟🌟 stars.
* I received a copy from Penguin UK via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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 in new and bad-ass ways, 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.
After the masterpiece that was All The Bright Places one would not expect anything less than perfect from Jennifer Niven and this is what I was looking for while reading Holding Up The Universe. I was searching for that spark and feeling of comfort I had while reading her first book (and it’s sad to say, but this book will most definitely get compared to All The Bright Places) and I wanted Holding Up The Universe to take over my universe, I wanted to be obsessed with it, to be filled by the story, but sadly I was not.
Like sometimes the other person needs to learn a lesson or go through an experience, good or bad, and you’re just an accessory in some way, like a supporting actor in whatever their scene happens to be.
This book takes us on the typical high school journey where being different makes you stand out and gets you bullied. Libby hasn’t been to school in forever due to suffering from obesity but after losing a ton of weight, she is determined to make the best of her time at high school. Jack on the other hand is the cool kid, the kid everyone knows and wants to be friends with, but it’s all a front as he has a difficult home life and a deep dark secret that can change his entire cool guy existence.
Niven talks about a lot of controversial topics in this book and I felt that there were too many topics that she tried to squish into one novel. The result being that some of the topics were only mentioned in passing and never fully explored the way it could have been had there not been so many other things going on. The topic of Libby’s weight was fully explored and although there was a fair bit of fat shaming happening I think it was for the greater good of the message that it left the reader with. Through Libby I came to realise that you are wanted despite your weight or body size.
Too much of my life feels like this already – trying to recycle something old into something new and better, disguising someone else’s trash as some fresh, shiny thing.
I also found Jack’s condition very interesting and it was clear that a lot of research had gone into researching this condition and making sure that the reader was not mislead by false information. But other topics that were just mentioned in passing and not explored, such as Jack’s fathers cancer, his little brother wearing a purse and their family problems, made me think that these things were simply incorporated to make the book more likable. It feels to me like Niven tried too hard to tick all the boxes that would make this book different and the end result is a book that is trying too hard to be relevant.
Jack and Libby weren’t really characters that I could identify with, except maybe Libby when it came to being body shamed, but that was ultimately where it stopped. Naturally, like in most contemporaries Libby and Jack fall in love. Now that is not my problem, my problem was the fact that the love just didn’t feel real to me, it felt forced and there was no spark and I honestly thought that it would be better for them to just remain friends.
Two hours later, when I get back in the Land Rover, it smells like her. Sunshine.
Niven’s prose is definitely what saved this book for me, not as poetic as it was in All The Bright Places, but still very good and it definitely had its breathtaking moments. I really wanted to loved this book just as much as its predecessor but I didn’t. I’m not saying it’s a bad book, no, it has a really great meaning and a lovely ending, but it felt rushed and I didn’t appreciate that.
- The characters were definitely different from your average YA characters.
- I loved to learn about Jack’s condition and the amount of research that went into it to make sure that it was accurate.
- I loved Libby’s positive outlook on life and the fact that she knew that she was enough.
- The prose was beautiful and entertaining.
- The book was too crowded with lots of different things that wasn’t given adequate attention.
- I felt like most of it was written just to appease people.
- I would’ve preferred Libby and Jack to remain friends as I did not feel any sparks or fireworks.
For this book I think it’s a very personal decision about whether you’d like to read it. Read the synopsis and if it looks like something you’d enjoy, I’d say to give it a go.
*Holding Up The Universe will be available from 4 October 2016.