Review: Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Holding Up The UniverseTitle: Holding Up the Universe

Author: Jennifer Niven

Pages: 400 Pages

Publisher: Penguin Books

The Blurb

From the author of the New York Times bestseller All the Bright Places comes a heart-wrenching story about what it means to see someone – and love someone – for who they truly are. 

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 see who she really is. Since her mum’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.

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 art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a 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 own 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 counselling, Libby and Jack are both angry, 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.

The Review

I really loved Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places yet it took me an awfully long time after the release of Holding Up the Universe to pick it up and start reading. What a fool I have been. If at all possible I enjoyed Holding Up the Universe more than Niven’s debut.

The story revolves around Jack and Libby – two teenagers who have their own battles to face. Libby is a big girl. She was formerly known as America’s Fattest Teenager. Jack has a rare medical condition called Prosopagnosia which renders him unable to recognise faces.

Through both of their difficulties they manage to find comfort in each other but this is high school and we all know that school kids can be cruel. This is a story of young love, coming of age and finding yourself.

What I love about YA fiction is that it is so diverse that it presents the reader with something that they may have never heard of. I have never heard of Prosopagnosia so I am almost certain that the students I work with will not have done either. They will have heard of obesity and may have even made cruel comments towards people with weight issues. It is books like Holding Up the Universe that help create empathy and highlight the differences in people. Holding up the Universe is the kid of books that young people need to read.

I can genuinely say that Holding Up the Universe is one of the most impactful books that I have read in 2017.

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven is available now.

For more information regarding Jennifer Niven (@jenniferniven) please visit

For more information regarding Penguin Books (@PenguinUKBooks) please visit

4 Stars

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