Summary and book reviews of Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Holding Up the Universe

by Jennifer Niven

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
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  • Published:
    Oct 2016, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

Libby

If a genie popped out of my bedside lamp, I would wish for these three things: my mom to be alive, nothing bad or sad to ever happen again, and to be a member of the Martin Van Buren High School Damsels, the best drill team in the tristate area.

But what if the Damsels don't want you?

It is 3:38 a.m., and the time of night when my mind starts running around all wild and out of control, like my cat, George, when he was a kitten. All of a sudden, there goes my brain, climbing the curtains. There it is, swinging from the bookshelf. There it is, with its paw in the fish tank and its head underwater.

I lie on my bed, staring up into the dark, and my mind bounces across the room.

What if you get trapped again? What if they have to knock down the cafeteria door or the bathroom wall to get you out? What if your dad gets married and then he dies and you're left with the new wife and stepsiblings? What if you die? What if there is no heaven and you never see your mom again?

I tell ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

I don’t know what there is not to love about this book. Throughout, Niven makes Jack and Libby's motives clear even as they make really bad choices. And athough a reader – young or adult – may not be a three-hundred-pounder or a prosopagnosiac, we all struggle with our own insecurities and suffer fears of rejection. Holding Up the Universe is a peon to setting aside those insecurities and opening ourselves to whatever the universe brings. Highly recommended, young (14+) or older adult.   (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

Full Review Members Only (772 words).

Media Reviews

Booklist

Some may find the pace slow, while others will appreciate that true feelings evolve over time. Recommended for readers looking for nonstereotypical love stories. Grade 8-11.

Kirkus Reviews

More a story about falling in love with yourself than with a romantic interest, this novel will resonate with all readers who've struggled to love themselves

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [Niven] creates two indelible characters and a heart-stopping romance.

School Library Journal

Starred Review. Written in short chapters of alternating perspectives, this is a thoughtful exploration of identity and self-acceptance, with commentary on overcoming adversities that will hit close to home.

Author Blurb Jay Asher, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Thirteen Reasons Why
I've never fallen in love with characters as fast as I fell for Libby and Jack ... Holding Up the Universe is a beautiful reminder of the power of understanding.

Author Blurb Nicola Yoon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything
Gorgeously written and oh-so-deeply felt, Holding Up the Universe contains one of my favorite characters of all time! You will absolutely fall in love with Libby Strout!

Author Blurb Kerry Kletter, author of The First Time She Drowned
At once hilarious and achingly poignant, Jennifer Niven's Holding up the Universe brims with love and heart and hope.

Reader Reviews

Vanessa Alexander

Everything and More.
This book is everything every teen need to read, because not only does the author discuss physical issues, but mental as well. She talks about body image, and makes the reader relate to the feeling of looking at a crowd and not recognising anyone, ...   Read More

Someone

It's a no from me
I found this book online and I had really high hopes about it. I had read a lot of good reviews on this book, how the author relates to teens who don't fit in, how it not only talks about physical issues but mental too. When I started reading it I ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Prosopagnosia - Face Blindness

ProsopagnosiaJack Masselin, the young man in Jennifer Niven's Holding Up the Universe, suffers from prosopagnosia, commonly called face blindness. It's a neurological disorder that affects the way people perceive faces – or more precisely, the way they can't. What that means is that Jack cannot even recognize his own face – as distinct from anybody else's – in a mirror. When a woman walks into his bedroom at home he has to look for clues – clothing, hairstyle and color, voice – to be able to tell whether it's his mother or some other woman.

Prosopagnosia (prosopon for face, agnosia for not knowing) is a disorder that affects as much as 2% of the general population, but estimates vary. So far there is...

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