REVIEW: Holding Up The Universe - Jennifer Niven


"This is what I know about loss: It doesn't get better. You just get (somewhat) used to it. You never stop missing the people who go away. For something that isn't there anymore, it weights a ton."

I loved Jennifer Niven's last novel All The Bright Places, so much so that as soon as I finished it I passed it into the hands of my boyfriend and demanded he start it right then and there. He did and he thoroughly enjoyed it too (which is saying something as he isn’t the world’s biggest reader).

The premise for Holding Up The Universe was equally as enticing as All The Bright Places. Libby has a past she is ashamed of. After her mother passed away and she experienced bullying for her size, she continued to comfort eat until she had a panic attack and had to be cut out of her house. When she goes back to high school after years of home-schooling and meets Jack, nothing all that major happens at first. Time doesn’t slow down and the earth doesn’t stop spinning. Jack seems like an ordinary boy, except he also has a secret. As a sufferer of prosopagnosia, Jack can't recognise faces - not even his family's.

This is why I love YA. It dares to be different. It dares to show you that an overweight girl can take centre stage and that conditions such as prosopagnosia are a real thing effecting loads of people around the world. Jennifer Niven raises issues like these. She makes you think. But, most importantly, she makes you enjoy it.

The dual narrative is an excellent insight into both mindsets of our two protagonists. I related to Libby more than Jack, I'm not sure if that was an author intention or just me being a girl. Her thoughts on grief, fear and having a sense of belonging are all so intriguing and she truly is an unusual character. I also love how being fat isn't Libby's entire personality. She's funny and energetic and loves to dance and I think those quirks make her not just unique, but also a character that many readers are going to relate to. Plus, despite it being obvious that there was going to be some romance, it wasn't at all cheesy. In short, Jennifer Niven does YA very well.

For me, Holding Up The Universe didn't quite match the brilliance of All The Bright Places. It lacked the emotional rollercoaster that glued me to Jennifer's storytelling before and the ending was far less powerful this time around.

With that in mind, I have to emphasise that Holding Up The Universe was still a thoroughly enjoyable read. You can grab your copy here and I encourage you to keep your eye on Jennifer Niven - she's doing great things.

Love, Jess

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