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 in new and bad-ass ways, 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.
Jennifer Niven delivers another poignant, exhilarating love story about finding that person who sees you for who you are—and seeing them right back.
Description taken from Goodreads.
If you’re looking for a “fat empowerment” book, you’re not going to find it here. Holding Up the Universe isn’t about emotional scars or body image, and it shouldn’t be taken as a book about those issues, though it does have elements of that in it. In the end, it’s all about Jack. Jack drew my attention more than anyone else in the story, and when I look back on this novel a year from, his story is the one I’m going to remember.
Judging from the acknowledgements, Jack’s story is the one she truly wanted to tell, and I could see that within the story. I loved getting to know him and getting a grasp for his Prosopagnosia. Regardless of their struggles, I came to fall in love with both Jack and Libby. They endeared themselves to me, and I could see that the way they act is their own means of coping. At their core, they’re both very strong people, and I wanted to know more about them.
Anddddd then there’s the but. Despite how much I loved the characters and this story, everything about it felt pretty half-baked to me, which is a pity because I loved All the Bright Places.
And I mean it when I say everything.
Starting off with the characters and their problems, I think the only place where I was really disappointed was with the ending. I liked getting to know about Jack’s condition, and I thought it was fascinating to read about in a story. What I wasn’t so thrilled with was the fact that this book has a very “love heals all” ending. It reminded me a lot of Natalie Whipple’s Transparent, and this ending will only ever work for that book.
And then there was the supporting characters. What an incredible group of nobodies. I was so underwhelmed by the supporting cast that I ended up blaming it on Jack’s Prosopagnosia. There are other problems that Jack and Libby are dealing with in their families, but nothing comes out of that, which leads me to plot.
Ah, the plot. Yes. The story does this jumping back and forth in the timeline thing that I thought was clever in the beginning. It got old very quickly. While Niven’s writing is all there, the pacing was off. Every time she switched somewhere in the timeline, it halted the story and broke whatever magic she was weaving at the time. I found myself wishing she would just stick with the present day, two-person narration that was already busy enough.
In addition to that, I should note that this book didn’t have to be 400 pages. It could’ve easily cut out about 50 pages and been even better than it is now. There were many points in the story that I thought were completely unnecessary and drove attention away from what truly mattered.
All in all, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I would rather recommend Jennifer L. Armentrout’s The Problem with Forever. It focuses much more heavily on the issues at hand. I stick by all of the things I said in my review, and it wasn’t good for me, but if I had to pick one of the two of them, I would pick JLA’s book.
1.5 stars (5 star for no instalove + Jack).