#BookReview Holding up the Universe by Jennifer Niven


holding up the universe jennifer niven book review

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 see who she really is. Since her mum'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. 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 art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a 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 own 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, Libby and Jack are both angry, 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 really wanted to like this book. I really did! I thought All the Bright places was OK. It has its issues. I hate when characters that suffer with any illness (mental or physical) are described as 'broken'. I know it's just the opinion of one fictional character but it still rubs me up the wrong way. 

I was looking forward to the author learning from ATBP and stepping up her game with Holding up the Universe but honestly, it felt like a step back. The writing lacked that craft and polish I like to see in second novel ( her second in this genre) but it felt like an early draft of a debut to me. 

As someone who has experience with prosopagnosia I was excited to read about Jack. Mine wouldn't be nearly as severe as his. I do use nicknames to identify certain people and watching movies with me can be a nightmare. I felt like she got the base work right it still felt 'off' to me. 

I found it hard to believe that Jack's parents had no idea there was something going on with him. Even though I appreciate that he's developed coping mechanisms it's still not an easy thing to hide and I would have liked to see this part explored a little more. I think it would have been a lot more interesting than the Libby plot line. 

This was where I felt the book really fell short. The plot line is thin; wafer thin. I kept waiting for this horrific event to happen. I was over halfway through when I realised it had already happened. I knew then she was sticking with the tired old 'overweight girl can only be saved by nice boy' theme. 

It could have been saved by some slight character development changes which I can't go into without spoiling the entire book but I found the route it took to be predictable and unoriginal.

Younger readers and people who raved about ATBP will probably love this one but if you felt indifferent about ATBP I wouldn't expect to feel any different about Holding up the Universe.


★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

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