Review: Holding Up the Universe

Posted November 17, 2016 by Emily in Review / 2 Comments

Review: Holding Up the UniverseHolding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 4th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 400
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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, 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.

I picked this book up at ALA without knowing anything about it except for the author and her previous book. It was on my shelf among all my other TBRs and I wasn’t rushing to it until I heard the premise behind it and some backlash Niven was receiving. I was drawn to it because I’m plus size, like Libby, and have been in interracial relationships. Let me tell you something…THIS BOOK IS AMAZING.

Along the way I heard from a friend that someone had accused the author of creating characters who hated themselves. However, that was not my interpretation at all. Especially when it comes to Libby, America’s formerly fattest teen. I found her attitude and acceptance of her body-past and present-to be very inspirational. I would go as far as to say that she loved herself. THIS IS WHAT PLUS SIZE TEENS NEED TO READ. Despite being targeted by classmates, Libby didn’t let that or her weight hold her back from anything, including trying out for the dance team. A new all-time favorite passage comes from this book where Libby questions some of society’s issues with people being overweight. She says, “And this whole ‘pretty for a fat girl’ thing. I mean, what is that? Why can’t I just be pretty period? I wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, Bailey Bishop, she’s pretty for a Bible thumper.’ I mean, you’re just Bailey. And you’re pretty.”

Her counterpart, Jack, was also a well written and multi-faceted character that the reader can’t help but come to love. This was the highlight of Niven’s writing for me because it’s clear that she extensively researched prosopagnosia and brought to life some of the struggles that people with this disorder are faced with daily. Some of these situations would literally make you stress out just reading about them. I didn’t feel like his attraction to Libby was something that happened only after he “got over” her weight. He honestly seemed to think she was beautiful, weight and all. Perhaps some would say that his focus was on her personality, but I would counter that in the end, compatible personalities are the most important aspect of a successful relationship.

Overall, this book was well-written and comes with many important lessons. I didn’t even touch on the depth or all of the issues. All I can say is that I HIGHLY recommend this book.




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