Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven
Publication Date: October 4th 2016
Age Group: Young Adult | Contemporary
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.
Ok so this review might be a little all over the place so please stick with my while I try and sort out my thoughts on this book. First, I have to say that I really did enjoy this book. I can agree with some people on how parts of the story are problematic, and I’ll get to that, but as a whole I was entertained until the very end, and that’s what I like to get from my books I read. I didn’t think that the couple of problems with this book ruined it at all and I found the story to be cute, which again is something I want from my contemporary reads, and for once I wasn’t able to predict everything that was going to happen before it happened.
Now being an overweight person myself, I have to say the way that Libby views herself is beyond relatable. I know that I’ve seen people that have a problem with how she views herself and about how often she thinks about her weight and the fact that she’s supposed to be this force for self love at the same time. But come on, this is how a teenage girls brain works. Even now as an adult that’s how my brain works. I go from one day hating everything about the way I look to the next thinking I’m the cutest thing in the world and everyone can just suck it. Maybe because I can put myself in her shoes it makes it easier for me to understand how her brain can work that way, but it’s really accurate and spoke to me on a high level.
Oh Jack. I’m not sure where to start with Jack. I have to say even though he has prospoga…..you know what, EVERY TIME I came to this word in the book it took me like 5 minutes to figure out how to pronounce it again, so I’m just not going to use it here. Anyway, even with Jack’s neurological disorder I have to say he really is a douchey boy. Granted I felt some sympathy for him but then there were times he’d do or say something and I’d just think “Come on, Really?”. But then again I can see that that is how he’s supposed to be written and that’s probably the reaction we’re supposed to have with him.
Let’s talk about the insta love for just a second. Sure that’s usually a thing that happens with contemporaries, you meet someone and bam you’re in love. Granted Libby and Jack knew each other before the insta love happened but you can literally see it suddenly happen where all of a sudden Jack looks different to Libby and he’s a dreamy boy. It wasn’t so glaring wrong that I wasn’t able to move past it, but I do feel that that situation could have been handled a little differently.
Back to Jack’s neurological disorder. I still don’t fully understand how it all works and how he’s able to tell Libby apart from everyone else so easily. It does seem like a Love Cures Everything kind of deal but when I think about it, maybe love could cure prosp…..whatever. Maybe having that connection with someone, a connection so strong that you’re not scared to look in to their eyes, can cause something else to fire in the brain that helps remember what their face looks like. So yet again, even though I can see this as being problematic, it still kind of makes sense to me and does add to the story.
All in all this was a very enjoyable read. I loved getting to see Libby make that transition from homeschooled loaner to being more comfortable in her skin and going to a normal high school and trying to make friends and start a relationship. I enjoyed getting to follow Jack and see that maybe the douchey act he puts on is just a front because he has no idea how to act since no one really knows about his problem and he’s too scared to really tell anyone. I am a sucker for contemporaries and the fact that this one touched on a couple hard topics made me an even bigger sucker for it. I’d recommend this to pretty much anyone looking for a good and entertaining read.