Title: Holding Up The Universe
Author: Jennifer Niven
Publisher: Penguin Books
Format: Audiobook and Paperback
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars
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.
The cuteness of this story is top notch!
Holding Up the Universe was nowhere near as devastating as All The Bright Places was – I have a review for that one too, click here – but it was equally sweet and a lot more uplifting. Both Jack and Libby’s individual stories touched my heart and although I couldn’t really relate to them, I understood their struggles of fitting in, staying strong and doing what you think is right.
I read the paperback while listening to the audiobook, similar to what I did with All The Bright Places. I feel like it gives you a better experience and you can imagine the characters better with different voices. The novel switches POV very frequently, which would have become a bit confusing if I had just read the book. But with the different voices narrating the story, I felt more connected to the characters. However, I do think the different voices in the novel itself are pretty distinct as Jack has prosopagnosia (face blindness), and he usually has far more descriptions in his POV compared to Libby, due to his mind conjuring up features of the people he’s with to figure out who they are. I highly recommend reading and listening to Holding Up the Universe, but one or the other is also okay.
The plot was simple yet highly addictive and fun. Though there wasn’t many plot twists, the story of Jack and Libby, and their individual journeys were so addictive and I always wanted to find out what was going to happen to these characters.
Despite the fact that this novel is a young adult romance, the main focus was on the development of these two characters individually. I felt like they did lift each other up, but grew by themselves.
I do feel like it was a bit drastic that Jack’s problems were solved by Libby at the end of the novel (I don’t want to give away spoilers!) and that was probably the only problem (aside from the POVs) that I had with this novel.
Also I liked how realistic the timing was. It was not at all insta-lovey and the story was set over the course of a year. It made their relationship feel more like real life and it was as if they were actual people in my high school.
The Characters – Jack and Libby
Jack was a very flawed character that I grew to love over the course of the novel. His character growth was incredible and he definitely came out as different person by the end of the novel. It was interesting to read about his own thoughts on his face blindness and how he came to terms with it. Jack was a funny, popular, yet kinda insecure boy that I liked way too much, and he was just an overall cute pumpkin with a crazy afro. (I loved his hair! XD)
Libby is a really great role model. She was so strong, emotionally and physically, and was always determined. She didn’t grow as much as Jack did as she had time to grow after she gained all the weight, but she did change her views on life and grew to love Jack. She was also really funny with her retorts and I loved reading in her POV. Libby was the type of person who got knocked down a billion times, but continued to get back up and be ten times as brave as before. She was confident with her body – which was still a bit overweight but A LOT less than before – despite her haters, and I think she is a good role model for all girls of all ages because she spreads the message of being confident with who you are no matter what.
Special mention to Libby’s friend, Jayvee, because she is legit me as a book character. She has black hair (like me), she loves books (like me), and she wore a top that said “my real boyfriend is fictional” (something I would wear!). Not to mention her name is Jayvee, as in JV, which are my initials!!!
Have you read Holding Up the Universe? What were your thoughts? Who was your favourite character? Tell me in the comment section below!