Title: Holding Up The Universe
Author: Jennifer Niven
Year Published: 2016
Source: Won an arc at YALC 2016!
Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28671039-holding-up-the-universe
*picture from Waterstones.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 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.
Jennifer Niven delivers another poignant, exhilarating love story about finding that person who sees you for who you are—and seeing them right back.”
Prior to publication, there was a lot of attention being driven to this book.The attention being a mix of hype, due to the success of Niven’s first YA – All The Bright Places. But also a lot of controversy due to the wording of the first synopsis that was released. This wasn’t a book I was dying to read as I didn’t love All The Bright Places as much as other readers did. But my friends and I were resting by the Penguin stand at YALC and we managed to grab advance copies of Holding Up The Universe. So I decided to give Jennifer Niven a second chance.And I was really surprised when I found myself really enjoying the book!
Holding Up The Universe is a fantastic novel about stepping out of the roles society has boxed you in as. The journeys that Libby and Jack go on were really interesting to read about. What I was worried about going into this, was that if there was going to be instalove. And there wasn’t. And it was refreshing to see how the characters grow on their own and with each other.
I absolutely adored Libby. She is fierce, she’s fearless and she’s completely inspirational. There’s one particular scene towards the end of the book that takes place in the gym that made me want to stand up and cheer for her. But I was on the bus to work when I read that scene and Londoners are just as grumpy at 9am. Trust me on this.
I found Jack a particularly interesting character. Books are indeed the fountain of all knowledge and I learned about a condition that I didn’t know about before! Jack has a condition called prosopagnosia, which means due to damage to the brain, he is unable to recognise people’s faces including members of his family at times.
Also, as a side note, I found that the dynamic between Libby/Jack/Caroline (Jack’s girlfriend at the start of the book) reminded me of Tracy/Link/Amber from Hairspray. It’s probably unintentional but I liked finding a parallel to one of my favourite musicals.
Overall, this is a really superb second book from Jennifer Niven that’s filled with an inclusive cast of characters as well as a fascinating storyline. Even if you didn’t love All The Bright Places, I highly recommend Holding Up The Universe.
Until next time,