Monday, March 27, 2017

Review: Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven


Title: Holding Up the Universe
Author: Jennifer Niven
Publisher: Penguin (Oct 2016)

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, 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.

I am not going to lie. I was super hesitant about this book because I was really not a fan of Niven's debut, All the Bright Places.

I had a huge problem with her romanticising depression and suicide. In fact, I have a problem with a lot of YA contemporary novels for trying to make serious conditions a trivial plot point.

However, Holding Up the Universe was different. I loved Libby and Jack. The plot is compelling and twisty. In fact, I binged this book in a day.

I loved that this book did deal with just how shitty we are as people when it comes to what others look like. Because being fat is apparently a crime. And being skinny is also a crime. I fell in the Too Skinny Camp for all of my high school years and was even called into the counselor's office because it was suspected I had an eating disorder. Thanks to the overly concerned parent who raised that issue. It really helped me with my already weighty insecurities.

Jack's point of view was also interesting. I had never heard of the condition he has, where he is unable to recognise people by their faces. I thought this was written really well and his struggles from day to day felt real.

This book did have problems. I still have issues with the use of mental / physical conditions as a catalyst for love and will probably blog more about my thoughts on that. Maybe. But, in a sea of cliched, trite YA contemporaries all clamouring to be the next Fault in Our Stars, this one was really not that bad.

If you want a sweet read that is well researched and written, you won't go wrong with this.

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