Friday, 14 July 2017 / 2 Comments

Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven

Title: Holding Up the Universe
Author: Jenniver Niven
Publisher: Penguin Teen Australia
Date of Publication: October 6th 2016
Source: Purchased by reviewer


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 read this a little while ago and it's taken quite some time to write a review, because my response to this book was so intensely personal that I still can't share all of it. But, I can say that it's been quite some time since I've been so affected by a book, and I don't know if I've ever read a character that was so much like me. I read this just before meeting Jennifer Niven at the Reading Matters public day at the start of June, and I might have blurted out stuff that is totally not appropriate for a signing line, but I just couldn't help it. Anyway, that's enough about me, onto the book.

Libby is returning to high school after having been home schooled for a while. She gained infamy as "America's fattest teen" when she had to be craned out of her house. Stuck in her room, she imagined that she was friends with the boys across the road (who she named after Supernatural characters - love that!)

Jack has prosopagnosia, but nobody knows it. He uses cues such as hair, clothing and other mannerisms to recognise people, even his immediate family. It's isolating, and gets him into his share of trouble, but he's worried that no one will believe him if he tells them.

When Jack's friends decide to target the fat girls at school, he decides to do a shitty thing, in order to prevent an even more shitty thing. This is how Jack meets Libby. Forced into group therapy, the two find that they have more in common than they think.

Jack and Libby both have demons to overcome. At times Jack comes off as a bit of a whiny baby, but really it's his insecurities coming through. Libby, despite having been subject to hate and ridicule due to her size, is in some ways more self confident and happier in her skin than Jack is.

Holding Up The Universe deals with grief, self loathing, self confidence and society's treatment of people who don't fit within the norm.

I found the story beautifully uplifting, and the message that comes through is that you matter. I matter. We all matter. We all deserve to be seen and understood. We all deserve love.

This is a brilliant book and you should go and read it immediately. And if you get the chance to meet Jennifer Niven, do. She's a lovely human being.

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  1. Aw, this is why books are the best! When you find that book that you identify with on such a deeply personal level, and it is just perfect. <3 Glad that you loved this one to bits! I also adored it, even though I haven't ever experienced anything like anything that happened in the book... Libby is just one of the best protagonists I've ever read, it was such an inspirational and ultimately heartwarming read!

    Cass @ Words on Paper

    1. Yes, you'd think that being white and reasonably middle class I'd find more books like that, but if it's only one in a 100 or so for me, that just shows how important representation is. There need to be enough books with enough varied characters that everybody has that opportunity.


Have you read this book or any other good books lately? If so let me know what you think...



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