Review: Holding Up The Universe, Jennifer Niven

After loving Jennifer Niven’s All The Bright Places, I could just be overjoyed when I got approved for an early copy of Holding Up The Universe. Strike all of the comments on Goodreads blaming the book for being offensive, while they didn’t even gave it a chance. Remember why we all fell in love with her debut. The characters felt real, and the story made us sob in the middle of the night. If that one didn’t make me sob, it made me hopeful, happy, and overall feeling all kinds of wonderful.



“We’re all weird and damaged in our own way. You’re not the only one.”

It’s a boy and girl story, once again, and told from a dual point of view. But here, we deal with Libby, this girl “larger than life”, and Jack, this boy who recently diagnosed himself with prosopagnosia, a.k.a face blindness: he can’t recognize faces. Not even to the ones he loves. I know, if it’s a boy and girl story, we can expect something lovey-dovey to come and happen and sweep us off our feet anytime soon. And I’m not going to lie, something quite like that is going to happen in this book, as we all probably can guess from the synopsis. However, if you’re asking me to describe Holding Up The Universe, I wouldn’t say it’s a love story up front. Before anything, it’s a story made of two people, two individuals, very different and with their own battles. Two people learning to overcome all the obstacles in their way, maybe a bit by getting to know each other better, but before anything, it’s a huge character-driven book, with astonishing growth in the matter of 300 and something pages.



“It’s the suddenness of life changing in an instant that makes me anxious when I sleep and makes me tell myself to breathe when I’m awake.”

It took me a bit of time for the two characters to grow on me, but they did, eventually, got under my skin and made me feel all of their struggles with them. Libby is such a strong character, she’s empowering and she is simply astonishing, from beginning to end. No matter what struggles you are or were facing in high school, whether it’s bullying, just some mean words once in a while -because let’s face it, every school has its Mean Girls-, I think that, on some level, what people think is always in the back of our minds. Whether we grew completely self-conscious of it, or not especially, it’s something we are ALL aware of, and something than more people than we might realize are struggling with. I have been one of these people, and I still am. On that, this story, and Libby is a very relatable character, and most of it all, she is such an inspiration, and the carrier of such an important message for everyone. Libby is “larger than life”. She couldn’t move out of her bed. She finally goes back to school. She dances. She speaks up. She doesn’t let people get her down, even if it’s easier said than done, at times. She learns to accept herself and to move on from the wrong people. To find the right ones. I felt everything that Libby could feel, because Libby was so real, and I love that. I think it’s one of Jennifer Niven’s talent here, and in her books: her characters seem so alive.

“Everyone in my life is a stranger, and that includes me.”

On the other hand, we have Jack. He’s popular, he’s the guy you, and everyone wants to be friends with, yet there’s something that’s not quite right. Like he doesn’t fit in. Like there’s this secret on his chest, and he can’t get rid of it, but he can’t share it either. Just like Libby’s, Jack is growing and evolving during the whole story, learning about his face blindness and trying to cope with it in his every day life, trying to understand it, and who he is supposed to be with this being a part of his life. But it doesn’t define him, neither the weight of Libby defines her. I had more of a hard time getting used to Jack’s voice, but just like Libby, he grew on me, and before I knew it, I was rooting for him. For the both of them to just BE. To overcome their fears, to push everything and everyone standing on their way and just BE. Also, it’s like you’re a child holding two dolls and wanting them to kiss. That was quite me during the whole story as well, but that might be because I’m a marshmallow.



“Dear friend, You are not a freak. You are wanted. You are necessary. You are the only you there is. Don’t be afraid to leave the castle. It’s a great big world out there. Love, a fellow reader”

Just like All The Bright Places, Holding Up The Universe holds a beautiful message, summed up in the story, and in three words we all should remind ourselves of daily. You are wanted. Everyone is different, and everyone comes with a baggage, has something that’s part of their lives, everyone is just unique, but no matter if you’re thought of as “larger than life” or weird, nerd or just the popular jock, everyone is wanted, and this is something everyone should be reminded of. I did have somehow of an issue with the ending of that story, if I have to point something out in this story. Despite its heartwarming, beautiful message, the ending made me feel like it was one of these “love cures everything” stories. I know it wasn’t. Libby and Jack’s growth shows that, but the added love story between these two, despite it being very, VERY cute, wasn’t too necessary, in my opinion. It was beautiful though, so I will shut my mouth and let you appreciate this wonderful book.


Jennifer Niven is definitely an author to look out for. With her book, she shows us how she masters the art of making characters feel incredibly real, and convey important messages to teenagers, and to everyone. Definitely adding her next books to my TBR. Immediately. Where are they?!

Final rating:  4 drops!

Biggest thanks to NETGALLEY  for providing me with a free digital copy of this book. This did not, in any way, influenced my opinion on her work.

Do you want to Holding Up The Universe? Did you read and enjoy Niven’s debut, All The Bright Places? Share your thoughts in comments!

Jennifer Niven, Holding Up The Universe,  Published by Knopf Books For Young Readers, October 4th 2016.


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.

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39 thoughts on “Review: Holding Up The Universe, Jennifer Niven

  1. Brilliant review! If the characters of that story are alive, your words make them breathe and I don’t need more to add it to my list! We need all the books with the message it is okay to be ourselves, that we are not defined by what is supposedly wrong with us, and that there is room for everyone on this planet.

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  2. Oh, beautiful review as always Marie! I’ve been interested in this book, and the ideas that it explores as well as its characters. I like the message that this book conveys – ‘you are wanted’, something that we all need to hear from time to time.
    I wasn’t a fan of ATBP, but I fell in love with the book’s Author Note. So, I do think that Niven has her heart in the right place, so I’m willing to give this book a chance.

    Thank you for the lovely review, Marie. Now I really want to read it!

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    1. Ohh thank you so, so much ❤ I think the message of this book is what I loved the most, it was beautiful, and most of it all, true. And it felt good to hear it, and to read about it all. We all need that once in a while, it's a great reminder ❤ I'd love to hear your thoughts once you read it, I hope you'll enjoy it! 🙂


  3. This is a great review Marie 🙂 and I am so glad you enjoyed this book as well. I’ve seen a few amazing reviews for this book already hand have added it to my to-read list along with Jennifer Niven’s other release. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the characters and I’m really glad you enjoyed reading their story so much. I too am like a marshmallow for books like this and I feel like I’m already rooting for Jack and Libby before even picking this yup. ❤
    I've heard so much about Jennifer Niven lately so I can't wait to pick her books, I feel like she could be a new favourite YA contemporary author of mine! 😀

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    1. Thank you so much Beth! ❤ Oh yes, Jennifer Niven really is a talented contemporary writer, and since you've been getting more and more into this genre, I think now she's a must to add to your TBR 😀 I hope you'll get around to reading her books soon, can't wait to know if you love them or not! 😀

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      1. That’s all right! ❤ Yeah I haven't read any of her books yet but that's what I've heard about her as well. She's been on my to-read list since I started branching out into YA contemporary a little more.
        I hope so too, and I'll be posting a review as soon as I'm done with hers so you'll be able to see what I think of them! 😀

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    1. Ohh, so happy to hear you loved ATBP so much! I really liked it as well, it was a beautiful story, but if I had to choose, I think I even liked that one better. I loved the characters even more, and the message was just beautiful and so true. Can’t wait to know how you feel about it! 😀

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  4. It made me sad to see this book have such a low rating before it had even released and now I’m so happy that people are enjoying it! This book seems so beautiful with its message and its characters – I’m really looking forward to reading it! I get what you mean about the romance, some books I don’t feel really need the romance and work better with perhaps friendship? It sounds like its not too big a problem in this book though, I can’t wait to pick it up! Great review! 🙂 ❤

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    1. Yes,it made me so sad to see that as well, and to see people judging the book like that :/
      Sometimes I feel like romance is unnecessary, but still there just because…there needs to be a romance there? I don’t know. This book was still very, very good, and I loved the romance, but I still would have enjoyed it without it, I guess 🙂
      Thank you so much my forever crazy! ❤ ❤

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  5. This sounds like such a heartwarming story and it’s great that you loved the characters so much! I’ll be adding this to my tbr now. Loved your review!

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  6. Your reviews are always so lovely, Marie. I’ve got a lot to learn from you!
    I’m very excited to read this book. It is already pretty hyped in Brazil, since Jennifer Niven came here for a book signing. I really enjoy the premise and you made me love the characters even more. I feel like I’ll be able to relate to Libby and appreciate the message a lot!

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    1. Aww Lais, you are way too sweet, thank you SO much. And you have nothing to learn from me, you are such a great blogger!! ❤
      I can't wait for you to read this book, and if I remember correctly, you liked ATBP, right? I feel like you'd enjoy that one a lot 🙂


  7. I am so excited about this book! Sometimes you really do have to ignore Goodreads and go with your own instincts. I really love Niven’s raw characters as well and I wouldn’t expect that this book would be anything shy of amazing! 🙂

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  8. I loved All the Bright Places, like I seriously even had to take a week off to recover from that heart wrenching ending… I am so excited to get a hold of this book!!

    Seriously, my love for depressing books never seems to cease

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  9. For me personally, I preferred All the Bright Places, but I did still enjoy Holding up the Universe. I enjoyed reading your review of the book, and agreed with a lot you said. I also found the characters relatable, and I admired how confident and brave Libby was. I also like the message that it carries and agree with it, and believe that it is very important. I find it so strange trying to imagine what it’s like to have face-blindness and other conditions that affect the way that person perceives the world. Learning about those types of conditions makes me wish I was telepathic, so that I could experience how that person sees the world. Anyway I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others along with All the Bright Places. At least this one didn’t leave me an emotional wreck, I cried so much during All the Bright Places.

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    1. Thank you so, so much for your sweet comment, I’m so glad you enjoyed reading my review 🙂 I know, I feel the same way, we are just all so different and it’s great and makes me so much more open-minded and aware of everything, to read books with conditions like that. I did not know that face-blindness was something before, and I am glad to have learned about it.
      Oh I cried so, so much reading All The Bright Places as well, it was such a beautiful but sad book ❤

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