Book Review: Holding Up the Universe

Summary: Libby Strout is big. Literally. She was titled the fattest teen in America a few years back. Since then she's lost weight and is confident in her body. But that doesn't mean that starting high school junior year after disappearing is going to be easy. And Jack Masselin sure isn't making it an simpler for her, by grabbing her and squeezing her in the middle of the cafeteria, and then claiming he was trying to protect her. But Jack's cool-kid act is just that, an act. Deep down, he's filled with confusion and distrust, because he has a secret. He can't recognize faces. So when the pair start to fall in love he can't help but wonder, does he really love Libby? Or is it just because she's easy to spot in a crowd? Jennifer Niven's contemporary YA realistic fiction book Holding up the Universe follows two very different teens each struggling to figure out what it means to be true to yourself.

Review: Overall, this book was a very quick read. As you may know, I am a huge HUGE (like obsessed ok) fan of All the Bight Places, Niven's first YA novel. So I was really excited to hear that she had come out with another YA book. I read this book in about two days, so it's definitely not a difficult or complex read. And once you start you can't really stop.

So let's start with characters. I LOVED Libby. Like, loved. She was such a fun protagonist- her spunk and confidence and just huge personality was so much fun to read, and very inspiring. Libby makes me want to be more confident, and allows me to see just how beautiful confidence really is. I applaud the author for making a female protagonist who was strong and confident and extroverted and herself, and is a beautiful person because of it. This is so refreshing to read, and I think is really needed in the YA genre. Jack, on the other hand, I found more confusing. I thought that sometimes his reasoning was a little circular, but overall I found him interesting. I liked how he gave a perspective into the mind of someone who might be known as unkind or a jerk, or hanging out with the wrong crowd, and how those people are just people too. I think that's a really powerful point and was well demonstrated throughout the book.

The plot of this book was, to be honest, not incredibly exciting. It was a fairly basic love story. I have to say, I have some critiques for the relationship portion of this book. First of all, again, we have a situation where the two people barely know each other. I feel like at least Libby would, in reality, want to really know Jack before she committed. Moreover, their relationship lasted for a very, very short time before Jack cut it off for what I must say was a very confusing reason. I suppose it could make sense, but I feel like Jack would instead hold onto his relationship with Libby as one recognizable thing is his life. I did appreciate, though, how this book had a happy ending. After All The Bright Places I was preparing myself for the kind of ending that would leave me depressed for weeks. But this book ended on a bright, sunshine-y note that was altogether pleasant and left me with a happy, contented feeling.

One of my favorite parts of this book was the dancing that was a theme. I personally love dancing around in my room and living room with my sisters, so I thought it really fun and relatable how both Libby and Jack liked dancing, just for fun. I loved Libby's passion for it, and how she didn't let anything, not her weight, not her skill, nothing, get in the way of her dream. Because she loved it, and that was all that matters. I would definitely join Libby's dancing club if I went to that school.

Overall, this book is a good read. It's cheerful and inspiring, and I think it's encouraging. It makes you want to stand up and be yourself. It reminds us that we are all different, but that different is interesting. I would recommend this book to any contemporary readers.


What did you think of Holding up the Universe? Did you relate more to Libby or Jack? Comment below!

Mini Story: Afternoon Sun


"Turn it over! I can't see it!"
She rolled her eyes and tilted the photo back towards me. The glossy sheen on it's surface shifted against the light of the noon sun, flashing and dancing and setting my eyes to fire. I delicately picked it up, fingering the sharp card stock edge.
"Where did you find it?"
"Down there, in the bushes." Her hair whipped behind her, bright red tendrils that shone against the blue sky as the wind's fingers pulled at it, playing with it gently.
I pressed a finger against the face of one of the figures printed upon the filmy paper. A small girl, clutching the index finger of a taller boy. Her eyes were squinted nearly closed as she gazed straight up into the purplish sky. Her frothy, sea foam green dress was crumpled and dirty at the hem. The boy's white shirt was dirt stained and knuckles browned with dust and grime, but his mouth tugged gently up at the corners as he stared straight at the camera. I shrugged and handed it back to her.
"Weird."
She peered at it intently.
"Intriguing" She corrected after a moment. She tucked it gently in her coat pocket, protecting it from the snatching hands of the wind. The pluckings of a guitar drifted down to us, and rowdy voices laughed and sang. Her dry lips mouthed the words of the song. I didn't know it.
The dusty red rock of the cliff was warm to the touch, and I splayed my fingers out, pressing my palm against its surface, trying to absorb some of it's heat into my cold hands. She watched my fingers thoughtfully.
"I wonder who they are." A statement. Not a question.
"Huh?"
"Where they are."
"The people in the photo?"
She nodded. Her dark, earthy green eyes contemplated the view beneath us, waves crashing against a slowly eroding surface, years chipping away and crumbling to dust. Rejoining the ocean, the water, the womb of the Earth.
I shrugged again.
"It doesn't matter I guess. I mean it's not like you're going to be finding them and giving them their photo back."
"That's not why I want to know."
"Why do you want to know?"
She tilted her head at me, her nose scrunching slightly. "Why wouldn't I want to know?"
I peered at her. I didn't have a reply.
"Two more hearts beating, four more hands creating. Two more people alive on this Earth that I now have a connection to, small though it may be. How could I not be curious?"
"But you don't even like people. If you did, we'd be up there with the rest of the kids, singing and messing around, instead of hiding down here and contemplating things that are too deep for a Thursday afternoon."
She laughed. Her orange freckles danced over her nose and a single bright peel of joy tumbled out of her lips, high cheekbones disappearing in a smile.
"I don't dislike people, I just find the majority of them rather boring to engage in mundane conversation. Plus, I find it fascinating, observing them."
"Ok so you don't like being with people."
"I like being with you."
I blinked. I felt some color rise to my cheeks. I tried to swallow it down. She was an introspective mystery and I was an open picture book. Her depths of ambiguity were unattainable to me. I was simplicity. She was chaos. We were too far apart to be close.
But if that was true then why did things seem to be falling so perfectly into place? And why did those five words make my heart jump and my throat disappear?
She was smiling at me. I sat mutely as she pulled a pen out of her pocket and rolled up her sleeve to reveal fair, freckled skin covered in black pen marks and scrawled handwriting. She pressed the felt tip against her wrist and scribbled something.
"You're going to get ink poisoning." My voice had finally returned from it's vacation and presented itself with that warning.
"I can think of worse ways to die."
"You're so morbid."
"I never pretended to be a ray of sunshine."
"You need therapy."
"I know. But our insurance won't cover it."
I shook my head. She capped her pen and lifted her arm for me to see. Words overlapped and cut across each other, phrases scratched out and faded, giving way to new, fresher, blacker markings. I couldn't read her handwriting.
"Why don't you just get a real tattoo?"
"Too permanent. My ideas shift and change too often. I would have to go over it hundreds of times, and I don't have that kind of money or pain tolerance." She rolled her sleeve back down, then handed me the pen.
"You try. Write something."
"Like what?"
"Anything that comes to mind."
"But why?"
"Why not?"
"But...why?"
"To capture, to recognize, to not stuff down illusive or inconsequential feelings or thoughts but to recognize them for what they are in the moment. To live a little more wholly."
"Sheesh." But I tugged up the cotton of my dark blue long-sleeve anyway and poised the pen over my right wrist. I was left-handed. It was supposed to mean I was more likely to be creative or have vivid dreams, but my night-visions were bland, vague blurs of impression that drifted away on the morning sun, and art museums bored me. I sat still.
"Well, go on." She was watching me intently, waiting to see what I would write.
My fingers are cold.
The pen smeared as my hand brushed over it.
I handed her back the pen. She nodded and slipped it back into her pocket.
"Good."
I tapped my thumbs against the rock, then tucked my left hand under my thigh, trying to work some warmth back to the tips of my fingernails. The right I left to the mercy of the elements.
Below us the waves crashed. A plane flew by overhead, its' engines thundering through my body. The rowdy voices were drowned out by its' rumbling voice.
Her lips moved, she was speaking, but I couldn't hear.
"What?"
But it returned void for she could not hear me either.
The plane continued on, taking its' deafening noise with it, but neither of us asked what the other had said.

The Character Karaoke Tag

Hey guys! Ellie nominated me for this tag! Thanks Ellie! I'm going to be focusing on my contemporary for this one, which focuses on two teens: Emmanuel and Athena. I don't yet have a title-- working on that.

What song best describes the mood of your novel?
This one was really hard to choose, but I think "Let Your Troubles Roll By" by Carbon Leaf is the mood I'm looking for. This novel has a lot of reflections of things that I've experienced in my life, and during that time I listened to this song a lot, and I think it really leaked into the book a lot and into the souls of the characters.



Pick a Character and A Song to Describe Them
For this one I'm going to Emmanuel-- my artsy protagonist. For him I think that the song I would choose is Addict with a Pen by Twenty One Pilots. Emmanuel has a really friendly outward appearance and has convinced pretty much everyone, including himself, that he's ok. But really he's hurting from stuff that happened to him in the past and has locked it all away deep inside his heart. He's also searching for answers and reasons, whether he realizes or not. I feel like this song really describes how Emmanuel truly feels.



One of your characters at karaoke night when- gasp!- they've been asked to get up and sing! What song do they choose and how do they perform it?
First of all, if Athena was asked to sing Karaoke she would NOT be into it. She would probably freak out and shake her head and Emmanuel would have to drag her onto the stage. But once she got over it, I'm pretty sure she would choose Fight Song. Although Athena wouldn't usually listen to such mainstream music, Fight Song is definitely an Athena song for something like karaoke.


Go-To Song When Writing Battle Scenes
Unfortunately, in this particular story there are not any battle scenes (it's frankly a huge drawback to consider if you are thinking of writing contemporary). But when I do write battle scenes I listen to something with a lot of instruments and tension. Lately I have been into listening to the Dr. Strange soundtrack at like all times of the day, so I would probably say one of those. Maybe Smote and Mirrors or Astral Doom, if you want the specific tracks.



I tag:
anyone who wants to do this!

I (finally) got a Goodreads!



So I finally got a Goodreads! Yay!

I feel like I sort of had a Goodreads for a really long time because I constantly used it to read book reviews and whatnot but I decided I should probably actually make myself an account. Mainly I just needed a place to organize my ((huge)) TBR, so I have been taking full advantage of that and filling it up with books I have had my eye on for a while (some of which you lovely bookish bloggers have brought my attention to-- winks at Ellie and Noor). Also I have used it to rate a few books- I considered doing full reviews but I don't know if I can keep up on reviews both on there and on here, since I am already super behind on all my reviews here (sorry guys I'm doing my best). But I do look forward to possibly using the review feature to freak out and fangirl write contemplative meaningful thoughts about the books that are shorter than normal reviews that I would do-- maybe link it up to my blog to read the full review? Not sure yet. But I am still new to the whole thing, so if you have any tips or  suggestions or anything feel free to drop me a comment as I am still trying to figure it all out XD. Also, please make me your friend if you want! I would love to follow you all and see what books you are into. Here is a link to my profile:

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/61479779-vivian

Anyways-- that's all for now friends! Thanks for reading <3



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Lotus Land

Hello readers!

Today I wanted to share with you some photos from an outing I recently took with my grandma to Lotus Land. For those of you who don't know, Lotus Land is a garden here in my town and is my absolute favorite place on Earth. I was so lucky to have the opportunity to go, and I would like to thank my grandma for this lovely birthday gift. So without further ado, here are some photos!






















Book Review: A Certain Slant of Light

Summary: A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb is a surreal romance about two ghosts, or 'light' as they call themselves. The protagonist, Helen, meets a boy named James who is able to see her while haunting her host Mr. Brown at the local high school. Her fear is quickly turned to curiosity, and then to something much deeper as she learns that he too is light, but has learned to inhabit the body of one of the quick (living beings). They proceed to find her a human body to inhabit as well, and the two fall deeply in love. But their intrusions have repercussions, and they find that they have tangled the fates of the families they have become part of hopelessly and irrevocably.

Review:

Overall, this book grew on me. When I began it I was very skeptical, and found the plot line simple and rather predictable. However, as I continued to read, I became more invested in the story and characters. So if you do pick up this book, give it a few chapters before you set it aside.

My favorite part of this book was definitely the language. It was incredibly poetic, and full of rich, colorful figurative language. I would say the main reason I enjoyed the book was the writing style and the aesthetic of the book in general.

As for the plot, I had some parts I loved and some parts I found annoying. First of all, I was confused by the fact that they were actually adults, but chose to inhabit the bodies of teenagers. Although it would've been one thing if they acted like adults, they seemed to have the maturity and mindsets of typical sixteen or seventeen year olds. Moreover, being a YA book, I feel it would've made more sense to just have them be young adults instead of trying to make a person who is in a teenager's body but still acting like an adult. It just made it confusing. The love story itself was very basic, and I thought it was annoying how quickly they fell in love ((like in two pages it seemed like)). The concept itself was intriguing, and I like the take on haunting and ghosts. I wish that it had been a little creepier though, although I don't think that's the direction the author was trying to take it. I really liked the families of the two people Helen and James possessed, and I think their interaction with the light was really interesting to read. I especially enjoyed reading about Jenny's (or Helen's) family, and I think that their dynamic was so interesting to explore. Whitcomb did an awesome job showing the families' interactions but still leaving the reader to form their own inferences and opinions, which is the mark of a truly good writer, and I applaud her.

For me, the ending of this book was one of it's strongest points. I was moved, and I liked the way it neatly concluded the book while still leaving room for the imagination to elaborate more on the story. The message itself was also so meaningful, and I think that it closed the book perfectly.

Overall, this book is a pleasant read. It's quick and will leave you with a happy, if slightly nostalgic, impression, an I would recommend placing it in between denser or more emotional reads.


What did you think of A Certain Slant of Light? Did you find the language intriguing? The love story basic? Comment below!

I just discovered there is a sequel to this book-- I think I'll pick it up soon. Let me know if you'd enjoy a review on that as well.