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!


  1. I've heard a lot about this book, and I've heard a lot of positive things about it :-)
    The story sounds interesting, but I am hesitant to read it as I had a hard time getting into All the Bright Places.
    Great review, Vivian!

    1. Thanks for the comment! I would say give it a go- I found this book very different than All the Bright Places personally.

  2. Thanks for leaving this review generally spoiler-free. :') It's on my TBR list for sure now. Libby and Jack seem like three-dimensional, complex characters, and I certainly hope that's the case. We definitely need to see more of those in YA.

    1. Yeah! They really are very well done- Niven is really skilled at making complex characters. And no problem-- I try my best to leave them pretty spoiler free unless I had a serious critique about the ending or some other plot point. Thanks for the comment :)