Book Review

Book Review | Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven

Holding Up The Universe is a typical high school love story that features two teens who couldn’t have anything in common but still end up together somehow.

From the author of the New York Times bestseller All the Bright Places comes a heart-wrenching story about what it means to see someone—and love someone—for who they truly are.

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.

Before anything, I would just like to point out that this is not a story about the life of Libby Strout after being America’s Fattest Teen. This is also not about Jack Masselin and his prosopagnosia. This is a love story set in high school.

Libby is a teenage girl who dives back in to the real world after recovering from her binging disorder. Despite getting shit for being fat, Libby still wanted to find someone who wanted her. She was determined to find someone make her Pauline Potter and sex the weight off of her.

Jack is one of the popular teenage boys in Martin Van Buren High School. He is friends with the other popular boys. He is dating the popular mean girl Caroline Lushamp. He can also engineer absolutely anything from scratch. Everyone likes him. The only thing is, he has a neurological disorder prosopagnosia which doesn’t let him recognize faces.

I’ve been looking forward to this book since December 2016. When I finished it, I was kind of disappointed. The story seemed promising but the characters failed to play their part to make the story the best it could be. In fact, I hated how they were depicted in the story. They seemed shallow.

Maybe I was expecting something different because instead of giving me an unpopular girl and  the most popular boy in high school, I was given a fat girl and a boy with prosopagnosia. Libby’s back story seemed fully developed but I didn’t find Engineer Jack necessary because that story was just a dead end. Also, I saw Jack’s prosopagnosia as just something to give him something else to do to help progress the story. It didn’t mean anything to the story as a whole other than to catch the attention of Libby.

I could side with Libby when she discovered her sudden crush on Jack because it seemed believable for a girl her age. She was just walking with him and then it hit her. The “guyness” of Jack was too attractive that she just falls head over heels for him.

I also liked the part when she and Jack were driving to the outskirts because Outlaws played in my head as I read the scene and it felt amazing. I wish I listened to music as I read the entire book to feel more emotion.

I found Libby selfish because she only wants what’s best for her. I can’t blame her for being too guarded though because of her history but she could give people a chance. She became friends with Iris because she didn’t leave Libby alone but Libby actually didn’t like Iris. She became friends with Bailey because Bailey is the nicest girl ever but I couldn’t see anything that could form an instant friendship between them. Jayvee is an automatic friend because she is Bailey’s friend.

Whenever Jack did a nice thing, it backfires because of the way Libby perceived the situation. She always misreads the situation and twists it so that she would look like the victim.

Her purple bikini scandal was also selfish. She just had an outburst because she felt everything building up. She didn’t want to tell anyone what she was going through for some reason, not even the school authority. At least Hannah Baker did (Thirteen Reasons Why).

The scenes near the end, after the huge party at Dave Kaminski’s where Jack was almost beaten to death, were just fillers. The end also felt anti-climactic. I disliked it a lot. I didn’t know what I was expecting but when I finished reading the final chapter, I just slammed the book shut.

I didn’t like the book. I forced myself to finish it. I wasn’t even interested in the first few chapters but I’ve been looking forward to this book for so long to just ignore it so I trudged through it.

Overall, Holding Up The Universe is a cute story if you are looking for a cliché but modern high school love story with distinctly different characters. However, if you are expecting the characters to be more than what their disorders define them, this is not the book for you.


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