Review: Holding Up The Universe (Jennifer Niven)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary



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 think what an amazing world it would be if we could dance to everywhere we went..”

So it’s been a while since I’ve read a good YA contemporary! But I’m pretty satisfied with this one. Satthiya from TheBookynista reviewed this book and how she related to Libby, the main character, intrigued me to put this on my wishlist! And luckily for me, a good friend of mine gifted this for my birthday last month!

Holding Up the Universe is a wonderful story of self empowerment, building your self-esteem from scratch and accepting your body and yourself. It tells the story of Libby who has struggled with obesity and eating disorders ever since her mom died. This book shows the severe consequences of body shaming and judging people based on their outer appearance.

What I love of this is its in-depth story of Libby’s experience dealing with cyber bullies and body shamers ever since the age of 10 and how she coped and overcame the situation. Libby has got to be one of the most positive and optimistic YA characters I have ever met. And it is such a breath of fresh air to know that teenagers can still be portrayed as the opposite of depressive and goth in YA contemporaries these days!

“But why should what I weigh affect other people? I mean unless I’m sitting on them, who cares?” 

Libby eventually meets Jack who has his own mental disorder which hinders him from recognizing faces. And whilst this book is essentially the love story between these two, I like how for two thirds of this book, we get to see Libby’s independent side as a free spirit who loves herself, instead of her being the girl who falls head over heels with Jack which leads her to ‘accepting herself’ because of it.

This is the story of believing in yourself and blocking out what others might say to you or about you. I love the positive message this book had in befriending people who may be going through their own version of hell and helping one another to stay strong(er). I related a lot with Libby since I was never the prettiest/most popular kid in school. Growing up as an introvert with social anxieties can take a toll on your self esteem and it’s always nice to read about characters who turn out okay because of their own selves instead of a guy.

Unfortunately I didn’t really relate to Jack’s character but I suppose his part in the book was alright and made a huge impact to the plot. The ending is super cheesy which I despise in YA contemporaries, but I’ll let them pass in honour of Libby’s sass!

Holding Up the Universe is an amazing read of how different people cope with facing tragedies and how everyone could use a helping hand once in a while…no matter how strong they seem to be.

“This is what I know about loss:

It doesn’t get better. You just get (somewhat) used to it…”

Highly recommended by me! Have you read this book? What did you think of this? 😀


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