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.
A BOY, A GIRL, TWO LIVES
“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.
A BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL MESSAGE
“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.