Gorgeously written and oh-so-deeply felt - Nicola Yoon, author of Everything Everything and The Sun is Also a Star
From the author of the New York Times bestseller All the Bright Places comes a heart-wrenching story about what it means to see (and love) someone for who they truly are.
Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout.
I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.
Once dubed 'America's Fattest Teen', she is only seen for her weight. Not the girl underneath.
Since her mum's death she's been picking up the pieces in private, alone with her heartbroken father.
But now, Libby is ready. She's ready for high school, for new friends, for love and for every possibility life has to offer.
Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin too.
Be charming. Be hilarious. Don't get too close to anyone.
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.
When Jack and Libby meet, they discover that the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel.
- ISBN10 0141357053
- ISBN13 9780141357058
- Publish Date 6 October 2016 (first published 4 October 2016)
- Publish Status Active
- Publish Country GB
- Imprint Penguin Books Ltd
- Format Paperback (B-Format (198x129 mm))
- Pages 432
- Language English
I LOVED Libby. She was such a strong and brave person, really amazing how she dealt with all the things that happened with her and did not run away from her bullies, but fought back. I really loved that and it really makes this book so much more then just a normal, angsty romance in my opinion.
The author wrote very smoothly and compelling. She kind of kept me guessing if this book would end like her other one, All the Bright Places, I kept expecting something to go REALLY wrong.. But luckily this one had a different kind of ending. Awesome to mix it up !! Really worth reading.
Holding Up the Universe is my second book by Jennifer Niven and I’m so in love with her writing style and the character’s she creates.
HUtU centers around two people. Jack Masslein, the standoffish popular boy who seems too cool to care about those around him, and Libby Strout the girl who is bullied for her size but has an infectiously bright personality. With Jack we learn more about Prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize faces, and just why he seemingly distances himself from people. He’s a boy with his guard up, who constantly has to search for little clues just get his bearings among people he has known for years. The more I read and the more he came to terms with his disability the more I liked Jack. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to see a sea of strangers where you know friends and family stand. Libby deals with weight issues and the onslaught of bullying from those at school, but she doesn’t want those things to define her or make her give up. Even when she’s struggling she remains a bright spot and seems to have a little quip for everything. I really loved Libby, from start to finish. I loved her bold attitude and her willingness to seize a moment even if it scares her. Their relationship is slow to build and full of insecurities that they both have to work through. It’s rare that I really fall in love with a couple in YA. I usually like one person, or the other…and some aspects of their relationship, but for me to really love everything happening is so rare that I devoured this book in one go.
In addition to personal disabilities and insecurities revolving around appearance, we also see the effects of unfaithful parents and how kids react to someone who is different. Dusty, Jack’s younger brother, plays a big part in Jack’s growth and his story is so heartbreaking at times. I just wanted to muscle into the pages and protect him from the cruelty of others.
Jack and Libby’s story is so touching, so heartbreaking and so hopeful…and I was really sad to see it end. Overall I think Jennifer Niven is now a favorite of mine. Her writing style leaves an impression and seems to imprint each and every emotion in your heart.
Jack’s character and his experiences with prosopragnosia hurt my heart and I was very interested in that part of the book. Libby was a wonderful addition as well. She was so strong and I really enjoyed seeing the both of them come into their own while finding their love for each other.
This was not an easy book to read (or listen to) but I felt it was an important book for younger kids to read. It’s important for kids to understand what other kids could be going through and to empathize with them. To help them when they need it and I felt like if Jack had someone who knew everything and could help him long before Libby came along, maybe things wouldn’t have gotten as bad for Jack as they had.
Still, this was an interesting listen that I’m glad I took a chance on. I’ll definitely be reading more books by Niven as I enjoyed both Jack and Libby’s story. Jack and Libby weren’t perfect and with Jack being as popular as he was and Libby, not popular at all, their romance would be laughable and completely unrealistic but I thought Niven did a very good job of convincing me that their love was real and true. This was a great introduction to Jennifer Niven’s writing and I cannot wait to read more. I definitely recommend this if you’re in the mood for a contemporary YA with meat. It’s good stuff. I promise.
Grade: 4 out of 5
As a plus size girl most my life, I really connected with the main character. No I haven't come close to her struggles, but I get what it's like to go through life with people making automatic judgements about you because of your size. I've been the victim of hate and disgust just because I'm large. And like the main character - whose name is escaping me at the moment - I tend to tell those people to shove it. I love that she is happy as she is and that she's big but fit. She can run; she loves to dance. She is hurt by people, but she isn't defined by that hurt.
And the male Mc - also forgetting his name *sigh* - wow that was fascinatingly different. I didn't even know his condition existed - the inability to differentiate people's faces - let alone imagine what that must be like. I feel like Jennifer Niven did a great job with him - he's cocky as all hell but it's a defense mechanism for how confused and lost he feels most the time.
Thus was my first Jennifer Niven book but won't be my last. Also, loved the narration. The two narrators complemented each other so well, at one point I was double checking that I remembered correctly that there were two narrators. An A + for narration.
We go into the story with Jack and Libby being "defined". Libby was America's Fattest Team and Jack is the guy that everyone loves. But we quickly discover those labels aren't close to who these two really are. It's their unlikely friendship that forces both of them to take a deep look inside and figure out who they are.
For Libby, she doesn't want to be defined as the "fat" person. She's worked hard to lose weight and get to a place where she really likes herself. It's not until she re-enters school that her belief in herself is tested. Libby has this remarkable inner strength that comes out when she most needs it and her friends see beyond her outward appearance to the special person she really is. Out of all her friends, it really is Jack who helps her see that she can do and be whatever or whoever she wants.
Jack has a harder road. He's angry about his condition and the state of his family. Because of the anger and his inability to deal with the hand he's been dealt, he often makes poor choices and begins to dislike himself more and more. Despite how he and Libby meet, he finds himself craving her. She helps him cope with his face-blindness and realize he can't be the person he truly wants to be without letting everyone see who he really is.
Told in alternating POVs, Jennifer Niven provides a charming story of accepting who you are and loving yourself. Jack and Libby were down to earth and could truly be the kid next door. They were easy to fall for and had me hoping (especially Jack) that they'd figure things out in the end.
I remember when I first read the synopsis, I was sort of shocked, as Niven was using rather a rather extreme physical condition for her protagonist (Libby, who was at one point so overweight that she had to be lifted out of her house with a crane) and it almost seemed a bit insensitive of a premise to me. How does one begin to even imagine what that sort of situation is like, especially having one's affliction gain such public notoriety? I was surprised to find that the novel didn't really focus very much on Libby's physical condition or overcoming it, rather more on the emotions behind her overeating and her integration back into a social setting with her peers. I really loved Libby as a character and I loved that she was really OK with how she looked because she was more focused on how she felt, and she was a protagonist who actively checked in with herself and partook in self-care. Whether it was when she was being bullied at school or had just spent an emotionally exhausting afternoon teaching her peers about self-love and a healthy body image, she always checked in on her emotional state, which is something that I think a lot of teenagers don't do or don't know how to do, which was a great trait to showcase in a protagonist.
I found Jack to be much less underwhelming as a POV character. His inability to recognize faces and his coping methods for navigating relationships with other people was really interesting to read about, but he was such a total follower throughout most of the book that I found it hard to like him. Libby had 100x more strength than him and had arguably been through much more, so I almost felt like it lessened the impact of her story arc to have a romantic entanglement with him. There were also a lot of interesting and diverse elements brought up within Jack's family system (gender/sexual identity, severe illness, biracial relationships) that were never fully fleshed out, rather it felt like they were included for the sake of making his family seem like they had this interesting and complex dynamic, but it was never truly expounded on. It just felt like Jack's story could have been so much more than it was.
I think Holding Up the Universe could have been a much more powerful story had it NOT been a romance. I think Jack and Libby could have found each other and been friends who provided a strong support system for each other, but I was never convinced by their attraction or chemistry. It felt like a relationship of convenience (two people who happen to be on the extremely severe end of their affliction/disorders who find each other) rather than one that formed organically. In some ways I felt it took away from Libby's wonderful character development to have her like Jack after his initial behavior towards her, as well as shifted the focus from some of her larger goals and achievements, such as her determination to break the body stereotypes for dancing, finding creative ways to empower herself and other females who are self-conscious about her body image, and her truly admirable habit for fighting her own battles (literally).
Overall: While I enjoyed reading Holding Up the Universe and I would try another novel by Niven, I felt this story could have been stronger without the romance aspect, as Libby is a protagonist who serves to inspire and teach readers about the importance of self-acceptance and emotional self-care. While Jack's character felt weak to me in comparison, I believe that was due to the foundations of an interesting and diverse background that were never truly built upon. A well written novel with some interesting elements, but I just felt like it had the potential to be so much more.This review was originally posted on Girl in the Pages
Holding Up the Universe could have been a five star book with only one its unique elements, but Niven saw fit to include several diversifying elements and weaved them together with a beautiful, uplifting, and memorable story. There were two main characters: A female protagonist with a severe weight problem who suffers from panic attacks and male protagonist with a neurological disorder affecting his ability to recognize faces (Prosopagnosia). A book with either of those characters would cause me to instantly begin listening, but a book with both of those characters is unbelievable. And those were just the highlights.
Holding Up the Universe was filled with so much body positivity, love, support and utter authenticity that, even after having finished it, I’m still not sure it can exist. This is like the unicorn of books. I’m sure it wasn’t perfect, but it was perfect enough for me. It gave me the same feeling that Eleanor and Park did. A feeling of believing that love and acceptance can exist in a world with so much hate. A feeling of hope.
As 2016 comes to a close, I’m realizing how important of a factor memorability is when reflecting on the 100+ titles I’ve heard this year. Time will be the ultimate judge, but I imagine Holding Up the Universe will be extraordinarily difficult to forget.
Narration review: Holding Up the Universe was my second Robbie Daymond narrated audiobook this month. After enjoying his performance in Everything, Everything, I decided to browse his other work and that’s how I stumbled upon Holding Up the Universe. Audiobooks with multiple narrators are a turn off for some listeners, but dual narration is always a win in my book. The story line of Holding Up the Universe was excellently formatted for audio translation. It makes perfect sense that a book with two protagonists should have two separate performers.
I could be wrong, but Jennifer Niven seemed to have had audio recording in mind when writing Holding Up the Universe. If not, then this was one hell of a lucky shot. The alternating points-of-view were flawlessly executed, partially due to the incredible narration of Jorjeana Marie and Robbie Daymond and partially due to Niven’s ease of transition. I’m aware of that alternating POVs irritate some readers/listeners, but Niven accomplished it in a way that complemented enhanced the story’s bigger picture and I believe she could not have done that as effectively without Marie and Daymond. ♣︎
Holding Up the Universe is the first book by Jennifer Niven that I've read and it will not be the last. I loved this one because it's different. Because Niven chose two imperfect main characters, one with a very painful past that was crippled by her weight and another that lives with a heartbreaking disability.
Jack has Prosopagnosia or "face blindness". It's actually an awful thing. When I think of now being able to recognize my own children, it makes me SO sad. Living with this very severe disorder is a nightmare for Jack, especially since he keeps it a secret. That is, until he shares it Libby. I think Jack grows a lot during the the course of the story. He realizes that he's using the "persona" he created and his friends as a crutch to help with his disability. Jack comes from a black mom and white dad, so yay for diversity :)
Libby was once known as "American's Fattest Teen". She's had a very difficult childhood due to her weight and her loosing her mom when she was eight. Libby's a survivor. She endured a lot of humiliation, therapy, dieting, stares, bulliying, and self discovery to be where she is. She's finally ready to go back to school after years of not being able to or willing to leave her house. Libby is very strong, she knows herself and is not willing to take the abuse anymore. I was cheering for her all along. Her voice is so clear, playful, lyrical. I LOVE Libby :)
Jack and Libby are reluctant friends at first, but then develop a friendship, then they fall in "like" and lastly in a bit more than that. I really like the they were imperfect, but tolerant of each other and learned to make each other stronger.
Both of Libby and Jack's family are very involved in the story, which I always appreciate. I wish that Jack felt more comfortable sharing his disorder with his family sooner than when he did it. It would have save him a lot of grief. The writing is amazing, especially being in Libby's head. This is a story that has very profound messages about peer pressure, bullying, doing what's right even when it's not easy, confronting serious issues, like death and disability.
Overall, Holding Up the Universe is a great story of coming of age, growth, overcoming bullying, abuse, and disabilities. It's a powerful story, with a powerful message and I wish all teens could read it.
The Holding Up the Universe audiobook had two narrators, Jorjeana Marie and Robbie Daymond. I always love when there is a female and male narrator for each POV. I had listen to Jorjeana before and I knew she was going to do a great job. It is my first time listening to Robbie and I think he did an excellent job too. The voices were distinctive from each other, full of feeling and emotion. I highly recommend to listen to Holding Up the Universe in audio.This review was originally posted on Quite the Novel Idea