It’s been a few months since I read this book, but I still wanted to talk about it here because it feels important to me, so here we go.
Title: Holding up the Universe
Author: Jennifer Niven
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Release: October 2016
My rating: ★★★✩✩
Libby was on the news a few years back when she couldn’t get out of her house, because she was overweight. Since then, she has been homeschooled, and doesn’t see much people apart from her dad, who has a hard time getting over his wife’s death. Libby loves reading, and she loves dancing. And now she is ready to go back to school, meet new people, make friends, and perhaps fall in love.
On the outside, Jack is your typical popular high school student with popular friends and just the normal amount of girl problems. What no one knows is that Jack can’t recognize faces. So he tries his best to find clues to help him recognize the important people in his life, including his brothers, friends, and girlfriend, but that doesn’t always work out. Jack has prosopagnosia and even he is not sure exactly what it means.
A ridiculously cruel high school “game” invented by Jack’s friend puts the two of them in the spotlight – punches and detention and all. They both end up in group counceling and community service. Together. And they unexpectedly grow closer.
I came to this book not really knowing what to expect. I really loved the author’s previous book, All the bright places so my expectations were quite high. But at the same time I had heard mixed reviews for this one. I was still curious, as I really enjoy Jennifer Niven’s writing style. But I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed. I wish there was more to this book.
I honestly think the premise of this book was really interesting. It does include diverse characters, which is great. But sadly, it also feels that they are present just for the sake of diversity. I wish we could have gotten more from Jack than his afro and his prosopagnosia. I wish we could have seen more from Libby than just the fact that she is overweight. Yes, we see her creating great friendships, which is something that I really enjoyed. And the fact that she loves dancing is amazing, but we don’t see that much of it. I wanted more.
One thing I really liked is the writing style. As I said earlier, I really like Niven’s writing style, and it was on point in this book as well. It’s a quick and easy read which is something I can never say no to. But I wanted more from it.
Both characters were really interesting, but the romance seemed rushed and inappropriate. I felt no chemistry whatsoever between those two, and the fact that they helped each other overcome their hardships is great to some extent, maybe, but I wished it hadn’t been dealt with in such a way. It felt like things were pushed a bit too much, and it really disturbed me. Love is not the solution to everything, oh boy, it is not, and I feel that this miracle of love solving everything is way too often pushed forward in YA. Sure it may be enjoyable to read. But as a teen, I never had a boyfriend, so it felt unfair and unrealistic. And even a few years later (I’m 21) it still feels like friendship is so much more important. Jack and Libby could have helped each other as friends. They could have had their other friends’ help and support.
Overall, I think this book had good aspects, but some parts were a bit awkward, or could maybe have been dealt with a bit better.
One more thing I did enjoy, though, was both Jack’s family and Libby’s dad who who were very realistic and supportive of their kids. It’s not something we always see in YA and it really warmed my heart.
In the end, Libby always accepted herself, and it was also really comforting to read, in my opinion. She took no shit from her classmates, and that was great. I just wished we could have seen more facets of her personality!
That being said, I will still be on the lookout for Niven’s future books with high expectations!
Please let me know what you thought of this book if you have read it, and please let me know if something should be corrected in this article. Have a wonderful day!