Book Review | Holding Up the Universe

Author // Jennifer Niven
Publication Month // October 2016     
Publisher // Knopf Books for Young Readers
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. 


Holding Up the Universe is a beautiful book about being seen for who you are (not just who people think you are).

Libby was once ‘America’s Fattest Teen,’ known for being cut out of her family home. No one knows the reasons behind her weight, what she’s gone through to get better and how her family impacts her life. Jack, although popular, also has a secret – he’s face-blind and struggles in his day-to-day life, even with his own family. He’s not told anyone because he’s worried about how they will perceive him.

This story is about what happens when their worlds collide as Libby returns to school. They end up in mandatory group counselling and begin to unravel the mysteries of each other and how their perceptions of the other are built on misconceptions.

Holding Up the Universe is beautifully written. It is in equal parts confronting and adorable. The characters make bad decisions and face the consequences. Libby is a fierce young woman who’s made the decision to be proud of who she is and how far she’s come; Jack is a young man who’s insecurities are holding him back. The message is clear: it’s important to love yourself, and not to hide the true you. It’s important that books like this are available, especially for young adults.

Overall, I rated Holding Up the Universe 4 out of 5 stars.


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