My Thoughts About Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven (Book Review #116)

You are wanted. You are needed. You are loved.

Jennifer Niven is really good with playing with the feelings and emotions of her readers. If Violet & Finch’s story in All The Bright Places took you on a roller coaster ride of emotions, in Holding Up the Universe, be prepared for another ride. Niven yet again created distinct and original characters in unique and interesting situations. You’ll surely never forget Jack and Libby after reading this book.

“We’re all weird and damaged in our own way. You’re not the only one.”
― Jennifer Niven, Holding Up the Universe

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But before going any further, I know that this is not a good way to start a review but I just have to let this one out. Even before the book’s release, Holding Up the Universe already caused quite a stir in the reading community because of the book’s original blurb. Even after the blurb was changed, there’s still that faction that still considers it as offensive. Some went as far as rating the book one-star in Goodreads and attacked the author because they deem the book as deceptive and dehumanizing even if they haven’t read the book yet. They already pre-judged the book even before it came out. Well, we all have our reasons and I am not undermining anyone’s opinion. I’ve read the original blurb and I did not find it as offensive. I understand that it’s everyone’s right to voice out if they believe they wont enjoy the book base on its synopsis but to rate the book one star solely because of its synopsis is pretty unfair for me. Basing it on what I’ve read from those “one-star synopsis reviews” and comparing it to my thoughts after finishing the book, this book is really far from being offensive. There’s more about this book. This book does not talk about losing weight in order to gain respect or acceptance as what others believe it to be. The book is about accepting who you are and defying how others see your worth. This book speaks of empowerment, acceptance and overflowing love. I am really glad I signed up to become part of this book’s Philippine blog tour. 🙂

The book follows the story of two teenagers from two different worlds. There’s Libby Strout who finally found the courage to return to school after being home-schooled for how many years because of her weight problem caused by the stress that was brought about by her mother’s passing. Eating became her coping mechanism where she ended up weighing 600 pounds. Their house needs to be taken down in order for her to be removed from it that allowed her to attend counseling and medical sessions. Then there’s Jack Masselin, a popular and talented kid at school, who suffers from prosopagnosia, or the inability to recognize other people’s faces, even her family. He developed this trick of looking into identifiers for him to identify the everyday people that he meets at school and even at home. From moles to hair color to their gestures, he always need to do this for him to know who is in front of him. It’s a secret that one knows. Until Libby came to his life.

“It’s about the important things, like the way their face lights up when they laugh, or the way they move as they’re walking towards you, or the way their freckles create a map of the stars.”
― Jennifer Niven, Holding Up the Universe

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Alternately old through the perspectives of Libby and Jack, the book offers a fresh take about what it feels like to be an outcast. Though she has friends, Libby is tormented by bullies and, at the start of the story, she is tormented thinking about what will people think about her. Jack on the other hand is an oucast on his own accord not because he wants it but because, technically, he has no choice but to deal with it. He has to reacquaint his self everyday to the people around him. Then their meeting came which totally changed everything, even how they view their worlds. It was an accidental meeting that was caused by a certain incident at school where they find themselves being punished. That punishment though took them on a journey towards self-discovery where secrets were unraveled that eventually allowed them to let go of their prejudices and fully accept who they are. They spent more time together that allowed their relationship to develop naturally. The book then took off from there where the complexities in their characters were shown which added more depth to the story.

There’s something with Niven’s writing that will really make you feel that she’s writing from the heart. There’s that sincerity and rawness in the words that she uses that makes her writing so effective. There’s that feeling that even if you are not in the situation of the characters or you basically haven’t yet experienced what the characters are going through, Niven’s writing will draw you in and will make you walk with the characters or be inside the body of the characters, understand who they are, feel what they feel and understand where they are coming from and their struggles. I also like her characterization in the book. It’s so on point. Each character, even the minor ones were given a spotlight allowing me to be able to connect to each one of them. I like how she portrays Libby in this book, Libby’s character grew from being this doubtful teenager to someone who is optimistic and confident about her self.

Niven’s writing can also be described as descriptive and realistic. I have never heard of prosopagnosia before and the way how the author handled it is commendable. It is very imminent that she understands what it is and that she made a thorough research on what she’s written. Niven’s writing is very effective in making you share the emotions of her characters and making you reflect on the things that you haven’t thought of before. She was also able to balance the flow of the story to its pacing. How she handled the direction of the story and the pacing makes the book unputdownable. I found myself reaching the end without me noticing.

“It’s the suddenness of life changing in an instant that makes me anxious when I sleep and makes me tell myself to breathe when I’m awake.”
― Jennifer Niven, Holding Up the Universe

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The book’s message is about accepting the differences that we have with others. The book wants the readers to feel that they are wanted, regardless of what they look like, where they come from and what they believe in. As long as what you’re doing is good, you do not need to change for others to love you. We should accept our imperfections and learn to live with it the best way we can. The characters will teach readers to accept their flaws as someone out their will see that flaw as a perfection. Stay true to yourself. Just be you. Someone understands and believes in you. Same as with All the Bright Places, this book also has the intention to help: Help those who are in the same situation as the characters. Reading this book will definitely make you feel grateful about a lot of things and be more mindful about things that I think about others.

Overall, this book is a charming, compelling and an important read. This book definitely left me inspired and hopeful.

Read the book first before you judge it. 🙂

5 stars out of 5.

Synopsis:

28686840From 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.

Author: Jennifer Niven
Release Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages: 400 pages
Price: $17.99
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Romance, Teen, Family

About the Author

unnamedBy the time I was ten, I had already written numerous songs, a poem for Parker Stevenson (“If there were a Miss America for men, You would surely win”), two autobiographies (All About Me and My Life in Indiana: I Will Never Be Happy Again), a Christmas story, several picture books (which I illustrated myself) featuring the Doodle Bugs from Outer Space, a play about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s sister entitled Blindness Strikes Mary, a series of prison mysteries, a collection of short stories featuring me as the main character (an internationally famous rock star detective), and a partially finished novel about Vietnam. I was also an excellent speller from a very early age.

In 2000, I started writing full-time, and I haven’t stopped… I’ve written nine books (#9 will be out Oct 4, 2016), and when I’m not working on the tenth, I’m writing the screenplay for All the Bright Places, contributing to my web magazine, Germ (www.germmagazine.com), thinking up new books, and dabbling in TV. I am always writing.

Blog posts I posted about Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places:
My Thoughts About All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (Book Review #99)
Book Blog Feature #8: Book Quotes from All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Note: Thank you to JM of Book Freak Revelations for hosting the blog tour and to Penguin Random House for providing the review copy in exchange for a honest and unbiased review. In no way was my opinion about the book influenced by someone else.

The tour runs from October 4-8, 2016. Be sure to check out the rest of the gang and their thoughts about the book:

October 4, 2016
JM from Book Freak Revelations
Jasmine from Jasmine Pearl Reads

October 5, 2016
Bianca from The Ultimate Fangirl

October 6, 2016
Josiah from The Bookish Fanboy
Eriele from This Is Not Your Book Blog

October 7, 2016
Fay from Bibliophile Soprano
Nicka from Read by Nicka

October 8, 2016
Elena from The Queen Reads
Nikka from Adventures of Nikka

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13 thoughts on “My Thoughts About Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven (Book Review #116)

  1. Great review! I actually also didn’t find the original blurb offensive, and was actually a little bit surprised that it caused such a huge controversy around the blogosphere. I’ve read this one too and really enjoyed it, though I have some issues. The writing more than made up for it, though. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read your whole review (I hadn’t read the offensive blurb), and it doesn’t seem like a one star book. I’ll have to say that as bloggers we have a huge responsibility. I gave one person a bad review and the author and supporters were very offended. I did read her whole book, but it didn’t seem that it matched the summary. I felt my review was a warning to others who might not appreciate reading about the very explicit events in the book. I feel bad about the review, but it was honest and I hope it prevented others from reading something that would make them uncomfortable. I think I made it clear that others might be interested in the book–their choice. I’ll probably look at some more reviews on this book, but it sounds good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I couldn’t agree more Linda. Thank you for sharing your experience. Criticizing books constructively is a way for authors to improve their craft and see the gaps in their writing. Authors (and their supporters) can’t expect everyone to enjoy their books. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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