5 Things About Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

March 18, 2017 Review 24 ★★★★

5 Things About Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
(Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository)

Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia
Source: Netgalley
Pages: 391
Release Date: October 4th, 2016
Genres: Adolescence, Coming of Age, Contemporary, Love & Romance, Young Adult
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, 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.

I received this book for free from the source listed above in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

It didn’t break my emotions

After ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES I was kind of terrified to read this. That book broke me and had me sobbing at some ungodly late hour (FINCH FEELS). HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE doesn’t pack anywhere near as painful a punch. It is a much more positive, uplifting novel with less pain and angst.


Another important message

The core message that both Libby and Jack learn in HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE is something I’ve been struggling to adopt myself. It shows the importance of not only accepting who you are and believing in yourself no matter what society/ the bastards of high school think, but also not changing yourself just to fit in. Let’s not forget that important quote: “YOU ARE WANTED”. HUTU is a book I wish I’d read in early high school, when stupid friendship drama and exclusion started creating the basis of the anxiety and self doubt I continue to struggle with today.

I related to Libby more than I expected to

When I started reading, I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of Libby. I’d heard she was outspoken and a bit pig headed, so I was surprised when I started to not only relate but admire some aspects of her personality. Her struggles with anxiety were the thing I related to most, especially the way she’d curl into herself when she felt uncomfortable and the physical manifestations of an anxiety attack. What I admired about her was how she’s dealt with it over the years, going from a young teen terrified of everything to someone who isn’t afraid to speak up to defend herself and her friends.

go girl

I never knew prosopagnosia was a thing

Prosopagnosia is a disability that is completely new to me and it sounds horrendous. Not being able to recognise faces would make it incredibly hard to get by in day to day life with people you’re expected to remember. It’s honestly amazing that Jack (and the real life people in Niven’s life his condition is based on) have managed to deal with it for so long so well.

All the pop culture references!

Usually the contemporaries I read stay away from modern references for some reason, but HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE was chocablock! Supernatural was one of many things mentioned on a regular basis. Some others I missed because I’m not American, but it addd another level of entertainment when I completely understood what the characters were talking about.

happy dance


Once again, Jennifer Niven has delivered an important message in a well written novel. It’s something that everyone can learn from. I highly recommend everyone give this book a go, especially those who love a good contemporary.


Buy HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE: Book DepositoryBooktopia BookWorld

Try Niven’s heartbreaking debut, ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES: Book Depository Booktopia | BookWorld

Rating Report
Overall: 4.1

24 Responses to “5 Things About Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven”

  1. Kyra

    I’m glad you enjoyed this! It’s the best feeling when you can relate to a character because it makes you feel less alone, right? Great review!

  2. Tasya

    I really loved All the Bright Places, but this one has been getting mixed reviews so I’m kinda terrified going into it. I’m glad you liked it more! I’m also glad that this book will be easier to my heart than All the Bright Places, but still have important message. Thanks for sharing!
    Tasya recently posted…A Peek Into My Bullet Journal + How I Use It

    • Bec

      I wouldn’t say I liked it more than ATBP, but I did really enjoy it. It didn’t hit as many emotions as ATBP but yeah as I’ve said, it’s still a really good book with a good message.

    • Bec

      It’s a really interesting condition, though sounds horrendous to have. I can’t imagine trying to deal with it.

      They’re both completely separate books so you could read her stuff in any order :)

    • Bec

      I know what you mean! I haven’t read all too many characters that suffer from anxiety disorders per se, but I probably should read more.


  3. Cait @ Paper Fury

    Yesss, I loved it so much too!! Like ATBP will always and forever be my most favourite, but I liked how this one had a different message/angle and it was just as good and so needed and fjdksalfd I still had a lot of feel! I loved how it had the Supernatural references too. NERDS! MY PEOPLE. And I really loved Jack. <3 And I admired Libby a lot!! I'm just going to assume that Jennifer Niven is like permanently on my auto-buy list.
    Cait @ Paper Fury recently posted…10 Times I’ve Been Ridiculously (And Embarrassingly But Shhh) Confused By Books

    • Bec

      It was nice to have a good message without all the emotional pain haha.

      YAS NERDS ARE THE BEST!! I love it when they’re the main characters in contemporaries. I relate to them so much.

      Yeah this has pretty much cemented Niven on my auto buy list because she’s had two hits in my less preferred genre!

  4. Jesalin

    Ahhh,I looovvee Niven!! I definitely enjoyed ATBP more, but HUTU was beautiful and like you said, the pop-culture references were great xD Niven is so good at including important messages, and I think that’s why I love her and her writing so much! Great post!! (:

    • Bec

      Pop culture galore! Yeah ATBP just hit all the emotions and had such an impact, it was always going to be a hard book to beat. I can’t wait to see what she produces next. Thanks :)

    • Bec

      Brace your feels for ATBP!! It will destroy you.

      According to the acknowledgements, Niven based Jack (the prospagnosia character) on her relatives who have the condition and their experiences. It was really fascinating.

  5. Kelly

    I really enjoyed this one too Bec and couldn’t agree more. I found All The Bright Places much more emotionally overwhelming, I was a mess all night after finishing that one. I loved Libby and found her so incredibly relatable. I liked that she wanted to stand up for other students but refused to become a poster girl for large girls. Jack on the other hand I loathed. After that one cruel incident, he grew as a character but I just couldn’t be as forgiving as Libby was. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one too Bec and brilliant review! <3 <3

    • Bec

      There were so many tears shed with ATBP. So many tears.

      I wish I could have Libby’s confidence!

      That incident reminded me why high school sucks. I’m so glad Jack grew so much in a positive direction.

      Thank you :)

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