Review: Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

holding-up-the-universeEveryone 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 counselling, 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.

As with The Sun is Also a Star, I had been looking forward to reading this book for months (and I wrote about it in my post on October releases that I’d been looking forward to!), and it did not disappoint – there were so many amazing things about it, and it’s definitely a book that I’ll be recommending.

Libby and Jack were such fantastic protagonists; I loved them both! I thought that Libby was absolutely amazing. Life had been hard on her, and things had gotten steadily worse until the panic attack where she had to be lifted out of her house. Despite everything, she steeled herself and went back to school, was honest about her feelings, twirled because she wanted to, signed up for the dance team. She was completely and utterly unapologetic about her size – even though people tried to make her feel ashamed and bad about herself – and was nothing but confident in herself. She was just so incredible and inspiring, and such a role model to others, both in the fictional world and in real life.

Jack was also an interesting character to follow. He had a neurological condition called prosopagnosia, which meant he was face-blind, unable to recognise his peers, friends or even family, and relied on ‘markers’, such as hair or freckles, to identify people. I completely ached for Jack, and how he had to act like someone he wasn’t to try and protect himself, and he was so easy to empathise with. I loved that, as the story went on, he learnt how to be more himself, and that he didn’t need to hide who he was after his emotional growth, which I felt was triggered by him meeting Libby.

I’ve spent a long time talking about how much I loved the characters, so it’s probably about time that I mention how much I loved the story as well. It moved quite slowly, but didn’t drag; there was a lot of build-up, and emotions definitely ran high throughout the whole story. It would’ve been difficult to not like them when they fitted each other so well, and overall I can only think of two things in the book which I wasn’t so keen on. Firstly, I thought they used the word ‘love’ just a little too soon, and secondly, I thought there was one aspect about the ending that wasn’t entirely believable.

Overall, I thought this was an absolutely wonderful book. The incredible characters – Libby in particular! – were a highlight for me, and I would definitely recommend this to existing fans of Jennifer Niven, lovers of romance, and those who appreciate fabulous characters and embracing important ideas.

Holding Up the Universe was published on the 6th of October 2016 (first published 4th of October) by Penguin. You can find out more on Goodreads here, or purchase a copy on Amazon here.

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