Holding up the Universe by Jennifer Niven:
Holding up the Universe Is a novel by Jennifer Niven published in 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.
So I was thinking 2017 is ending and I’m yet to find a book which actually moved me. Bam!!! “Holding up the Universe” recommendation was blinking in my email. The title and the book cover intrigued me. The story is simple. The problems faced by the Main characters are faced/facing by our teenagers.
But still, the book stands out and outshines most of the book which dealt with teenager problems.
Libby is a 16 year old American teenager who is “Fattest teenager in America” and due to that, she has been home schooled. After a couple of years of being at home. Libby persuaded by her Father and Counselor agrees to give a try to attending the school. Libby though has come a long way in losing the weight, is yet Over Weight. She is not your typical Skinny teenager, she is weighing somewhere around 136 kg. Libby though on the front seems confident and cool, in reality, she is a sensitive, insecure teenager.
Just like any other teenager. Her life takes a drastic turn when her classmates start a game called Fat girl rodeo. Jack Masselin is challenged by his friends to take part in it. All Jack is to do it to hold onto the fattest girl and not to let go. Jack, who is not interested in this challenge yet agrees and takes part into just for the sake of being socially accepted. You see just like any other teenager all Jack wants is to socially accepted and not to be bullied. Jack is suffering from Prosopagnosia (face blindness) and is afraid if he doesn’t behave cool, aloof and a Jock, he will be discarded. Jack is yet again another teenager who is hiding behind a mask.
Jennifer Niven has done a commendable job with bringing two characters who are trying hard to hold up the burdens, shame, insecurities, hope (Universe). The book is all about finding oneself and being content with it, you don’t have to be skinny, fat, beautiful, academic or anything to lead your life. Nobody other than you get to call the shots.
The book is also about holding up all your passion, hopes, and desires in a tight fist and not letting it go. The author through Libby sends a clear message to everyone that fat shaming anyone is not cool. Bullying others and looking down on your peers just because of their size or sexual preference is not acceptable.
Niven has done a good job in bringing out the complexities of many characters. There are many things I loved about the book. For instance, Jack’s youngest brother is Gay and nowhere Jack thinks it’s unusual, instead to cheer up his brother Jack builds a robot and gives that robot a purse as an accessory (Jack’s brother used to carry a purse everywhere before his friends bullied and slashed the purse).
This book definitely did a number on me. It’s an amazingly inspiring book out there. The bullying and cruelty and shallowness of Libby’s classmates’ makes you stop for a second and think were you the same shallow person when you were young. With just 389 pages, short chapters and alternate POV of Libby and Jack the book is quite enjoyable. Give this book a try. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. I rate this book 4.5 stars.
Title: Holding up the Universe
Author: Jennifer Niven
Year of Publication: 2016
Page Count: 389
Genre: YA Fiction
Characters: Jack Masselin, Libby Strout
“We’re all weird and damaged in our own way. You’re not the only one.”
“We don’t ever leave that old world behind. We just create a new one.”
“You might not want to burn your bridges when you’re standing on an island.”
“I want you to know I’m rooting for you.’ Sometimes we need to hear that, even from a stranger.”
“This is what I know about loss:
– It doesn’t get better. You just (somewhat) get used to it.
– You never stop missing the people who go away.
– For something that isn’t there anymore, it weighs a ton.”
About the Author
Jennifer Niven writes both fiction and also nonfiction books. Her novels for adults include American Blonde, Becoming Clementine, Velva Jean Learns to Fly, and Velva Jean Learns to Drive. Her first book for young adult readers, All the Bright Places, was published in 2015. Holding Up the Universe is her second young adult book.
Her nonfiction books include The Ice Master, Ada Blackjack, and The Aqua-Net Diaries.