Holding Up The Universe – Jennifer Niven

“Too many people in this world think small is the best they can do. Not you, Libby Strout. You weren’t born for small.”

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Blurb: “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 possibly life has to offer. ‘I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.’”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I first heard about this book when the negativity surrounding the Goodreads description first emerged. It’s safe to say that maybe it wasn’t the best synopsis to put forward for the book and a lot of people were angry. It eventually led to Jennifer Niven addressing the issue and expressing that the topics tackled within the book are close to her heart and that she did not write the Goodreads synopsis. Shortly after it was changed but still wasn’t much better.

Like many others, I was put off by it based on what I saw on Goodreads. However, when I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of her new book, I took it. I expected to hold the same feelings I had prior to reading it while doing just that. I was wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The story follows two characters (switching through their perspectives throughout) Libby and Jack. After the death of her mother, Libby found comfort in food which lead to an event that was widely reported, earning her the title “America’s fattest teen.” She has since shed some of the weight and is returning to school. Jack’s dad is having an affair and on top of that, Jack is convinced that he has a condition called “prosopagnosia” which is the inability to recognise faces. (Imagine not being able to recognise your own family) Through a series of events, Libby and Jack are brought together in an unexpected way.

I know what you’re thinking: story about a fat girl who happens to become friends with someone who can’t recognise faces? Pretty convenient right? I thought the same. However, these aspects are something that’s more so dealt with separately minus a few things that lead to their eventual friendship. Also, through reading the acknowledgements, Jennifer Niven details her experiences of anxiety and weight issues and how she actually has a family member with prosopagnosia so she had a lot of access to information (and she did extra research too) that would help make the representation of the condition accurate in her story.

Libby was incredibly well written and I felt like she was someone I would be friends with. I was there with her every single word of the way through this story and I yearned to read more once I’d finished the book. Jack on the other hand was lacking. I found myself wondering when I’d get back to Libby’s narratives while reading his ones. It would be really difficult to do this story without him but I just didn’t connect to his character in the same way.

Whatever preconceptions you may have about this book (All The Bright Places is very marmite in terms of reviews), please at least give this story a try.

I only wish I could read more of Libby’s story.

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3 thoughts on “Holding Up The Universe – Jennifer Niven

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