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
Disclaimers : We received an advanced digital copy of the book from netgalley courtesy of the publisher. The covered featured in this blog post is an edited version done for aesthetic purposes to fit with our Instagram. There may be some things considered to be spoilers, be warned.
Why we chose it: Jennifer Niven wrote it. All The Bright Places wrecked us, but we loved it because there was an honesty to it that resonated with us. The cover also, totally gorgeous.
Review: We’ve not read many books that are classed as both a contemporary novel and romance. It just doesn’t usually happen. However there are some authors such as Jennifer Niven who manage to take aspects of real life and weave them into a real and honest romance.
Usually when a book like this is told from two points of view (in this case Jack and Libby) three things go through our head. They’re based around assumptions – we even have a list
1. Always assume that when a book is told from two points of view it’s likely these two people will end up being together.
(We then remembered All The Bright Places, you remember how that ended? Not at all what we were expecting – it left us completely destroyed, but needing more)
2. Throw those assumptions out the window.
3. If you see those assumptions creeping back in through the window then you might as well let them at this point.
So we went into Holding Up The Universe knowing we’d be embarking on what was likely to be an emotional roller coaster One we hoped would end on a happy note and not leave us crying because there was a figurative hole in our chest where our heart should be thanks to work of a cruel author.
Holding Up The Universe was amazing.
The first thing you notice isn’t necessarily the diversity although that’s there too, The first thing you notice is the character of Jack. He’s got prosopognosia (he can’t recognise faces) only he’s not defined by this. To everyone else he’s Jack – charming and hilarious.
The second thing you notice is the character of Libby, to almost everyone else she’s defined by her weight. “America’s Fattest Teen”. What we loved about her though is that she doesn’t define herself by her weight. It’s not the end all and be all of her. She’s hilarious, she’s confident (she has her doubts like everyone else). She’s determined to go places.
Jennifer Niven didn’t take the easy option and create characters who were two dimensional – every single character in this book has a certain level of complexity to them and throughout we manage to uncover different sides of these characters. Whether it’s Kam and the fact that beneath his dumb actions he is a pretty decent guy or whether it’s Bailey who despite being nice and cheery most of the time still has regrets about some of the things she’s done.
There’s a line in the book that speaks of coming out and we feel like that’s a big theme throughout the book. Everyone has the face they present to the world and the face they wear when nobody is looking. In Holding Up The Universe we see our wonderful characters take chances and be brave enough to let the public face drop. Let themselves be vulnerable. Jennifer explores it wonderfully.
We mentioned early on in our review that there’s diversity. It was pretty clear that as we progressed that many of the aspects of life such as different skin colours, body types and sexuality – the things usually lacking in YA novels weren’t lacking here. It was great because it provided us with a more honest depiction of real life.
However we found ourselves at times automatically creating the stereotypical images portrayed in YA over the images of Jack, Libby and others written before us. We were genuinely upset by this because we don’t consider ourselves to be narrow minded. Holding Up The Universe showed us that that’s something we have to deal with. In fact it showed us that dealing with what’s going on inside our mind or in the physical realm is often easier when we let people in.
So we’re truthfully telling you the thoughts we had when reading this book because it made us think and that’s the sign of a great book. Being thought provoking is most certainly an accomplishment for any manuscript right?
The romance. Oh the romance, it was so artfully done. There was nothing rushed about it- there was no succumbing to instalove. There was a length of time with which our characters got to know each other properly and there were strong emotions. At points in the book we were sitting right here on our bed, back against a wall that’s always too cold, dread crept in and we thought “what if something goes horribly wrong?”
We’re not going to tell you if the complex being that are Jack and Libby had a happy ever after. We’re not going to tell you at what point we smiled or at what point we damn nearly cried. We’re going to let you read this book when it comes out for yourself and smile and laugh by yourselves.
To conclude Holding Up The Universe is a tremendous novel that was real, thought provoking and emotional. We read it in one sitting and we’ll happily shout our love for it off of our rooftop. Unless of course it’s raining…..
There were moments when it was a little cringe worthy, but that’s okay. You can’t like the inner monologue of a character 100%.
This novel showed us that fiction is honest too and even the acknowledgements, The ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS are worth reading.
Thanks so much for reading this, we’re immensely grateful as you can no doubt tell to have been given the opportunity to read this book months before it’s release. You can also find this review here
P.S Jack is ours. We’ve claimed him. You can’t have him because our claim is now official. Jennifer Niven gave him to us. Hands off
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