I’ve been waiting for Holding Up the Universe for BASICALLY 74 YEARS.
Give or take, like, a few years…but it feels forever since I had my fragile and delicate destroyed by Jennifer Niven’s All The Bright Places (which coincidentally is one of my top favourited reviews on Goodreads with 400+ likes!) and I was SO READY FOR THIS NEW BOOK!
I’ll be honest: I don’t think it’s as good as ATBP. But it’s a different story, a different feel, and a different message. I don’t want to compare them too much! (I mean, it’s BAD ENOUGH that this poor book has that horrible permanent sticker on the front cover reminding it of its older sibling’s success while it is yet a new hatchling…poor dear.) All you need to know is: (A) I thoroughly enjoyed this, (B) even if I do have a few twitchy qualms, and (C) I am not destroyed! Yay!
HAHAHAH JUST KIDDING. THERE IS MUCH MORE YOU NEED TO KNOW. Read on, dear Algernon. We have much to discuss.
(And OBVIOUSLY this review will have no spoilers. But since it’s such a highly anticipated book across the blogosphere, I figured I should put that disclaimer.)
I loved the message of being seen and finding self-worth.
Doesn’t everyone feel invisible and unwanted on occasion?? So this should resonate with basically 97% of everybody. Bless it. The story is equal parts about Libby (who is known as the “fattest teen in America”) and Jack (who has prosopagnosia, aka face blindness and recognises NOBODY). I adored their dual-narration and I loooooved their story line. NO BORING MOMENTS. Perfect pacing. And Jennifer Niven’s writing is A GIFT TO HUMANKIND ACROSS THE GALAXIES. Her writing always makes me feeeeel all the things.
And the characters? BE STILL MY RAPIDLY BEATING HEART BECAUSE: JACK.
HE IS A PRECIOUS CINNAMON ROLL OF BAD DECISIONS. Seriously, such bad decisions. Stahp, Jack. He has prosopagnosia, which is face-blindness, which is actually a disability I’ve researched a lot and am quite interested about. I really felt for Jack. He doesn’t want anyone to know he can’t recognise faces, so he compensates by being “untouchable” like nothing and no one can hurt him with all his swagger. Plus I relate hugely to him, not because I have prosopagnosia, but just because I relate to (A) Jack having social anxiety, and (B) when he walks into a room he can’t recognise people so it’s basically like being surrounded by strangers all the time, and I struggle to read faces so Jack’s drowning feeling of “WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE, WHAT DO THEY THINK, WHAT’S GOING ON” was relatable to me and so so so well written.
Plus Jack has SWAGGER and an afro that he calls his LION’S MANE and the dude is just downright #FABULOUS.
Buuuut…I struggled to care about Libby.
She has a very self-righteous attitude and she makes DUMB DECISIONS TOO…but Jack is 100% aware of his, while Libby just denies/justifies hers. How is this fair??? It is not??? Jack and Libby BOTH assume people are going to make their lives hellish (#socialanxiety) but Libby deals with it by ALWAYS assuming the worst of people…even when they’ve done nothing but be nice to her. Ask first. Accuse later, maybe?? But HEY! Libby was seriously brave and intent on spreading messages of self-love and her sassy clap-backs to bullies were AMAZING.
BRIEF LIST OF OTHER THINGS I LOVED
- SUPERNATURAL REFERENCES!! Which gives me life, honestly.
- There is so much dancing. DANCING. The only time I’ve ever danced in my life is when I walked through a spider web, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it. They rocked the dancing here.
- So much diversity! Of size, ethnicity (Jack is biracial), mental illnesses, and disabilitites.
- #HAIRAPPRECIATION. I’m not even sorry. I have a deep love of fabulous hair.
- Hate to love romance. My FAVOURITE romance trope.
- I HAD AN EMOTION. I actually got totally squished with emotions. At one stage it was SO INSUFFERABLY CUTE that I had to stop reading and just squee. Also there are times when I had to stop reading and HOWL.
BRIEF LIST OF DISLIKES, UNFORTUNATELY
- Well, Libby. Which I feel bad about, but seriously…sometimes I didn’t feel like shipping them?
- Not really sure what everyone’s motivations where. Like why wouldn’t Jack tell his parents he was face-blind?? His family was having Big Issues, but STILL. And why wouldn’t Libby go to the principal when she was bullied? She told another girl to go to the principal for being bullied??? And why would Libby BULLY HERSELF and then turn around and speak about self-worth? She legit wrote nasty things about herself in the bathroom. I just…I don’t…understand???
- Sometimes Jack’s face-blindness didn’t make sense. For instance, he can’t recognise his family’s faces. Yes. But he kept saying things like “the man I assume is my father walks into the room” WHICH MAKES NO SENSE. I can freaking tell which member of my family is coming down the stairs without seeing them. He has “identifiers” like hair and weight and voices and physical features like sticking-out-ears…so it seemed silly that he KEPT underlining he couldn’t recognise his family.
This book is still a precious little universe * of wonder and I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN.
Sure I had quibbles, but I love love loved it and I just wanted to stay devouring it forever. Jack and his precious #FABULOUSNESS rates as one of my top-favourite-contemporary-boys. And any book that wants to talk about self worth is DOING GOOD IN THIS WORLD, THANK YOU. It hit me in the feels several times and just…HOLD ME. ** I love this book.
* See what I did there? HUH? HUH? GET IT?
** And see what I did there? I’m on a title pun ROLL right now, go me.
THANK YOU TO PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE FOR THE REVIEW-COPY. Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven was published October, 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.
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