Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Holding Up the Universe

by Jennifer Niven

New York Times Bestseller

From the author of the New York Times bestseller All the Bright Places comes a heart-wrenching story about what it means to see someone—and love someone—for who they truly are.

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.

Jennifer Niven delivers another poignant, exhilarating love story about finding that person who sees you for who you are—and seeing them right back.

"Niven is adept at creating characters. . . . [Libby's] courage and body-positivity make for a joyful reading experience." --The New York Times

Holding Up the Universe . . . taps into the universal need to be understood. To be wanted. And that’s what makes it such a remarkable read.” —TeenVogue.com, “Why New Book Holding Up the Universe Is the Next The Fault in Our Stars”

"Want a love story that will give you all the feels? . . . You'll seriously melt!" —Seventeen Magazine

Reviewed by inlibrisveritas on

5 of 5 stars

4.5 Stars

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.

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Reading updates

  • Started reading
  • 16 February, 2017: Finished reading
  • 16 February, 2017: Reviewed