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“Holding up the Universe” Book Review *containing spoilers*

holding up the universe

Holding up the universe

by Jennifer Niven
My rating: 2 stars

“Libby is the girl whose name everybody knows. But no one really sees her, except Jack.
Jack is the guy who’s friends with everyone. But doesn’t let anyone in, except Libby.
The two make an unlikely pair. And yet…
They might be able to change each other’s worlds”.

“All the Bright Places” was a book that I started reading in 2017 and that I had to add to by DNF list. I bought that book and “Holding up the universe” at the same time because I had only heard good reviews about them. 

First of all, I have to say that I love reading YA novels. However, I guess that the writing style and the plot of these types of books like “Holding up the Universe” are simply not for me. This book is not inspiring at all. Basically, it is an ugly duckling + popular guy teen romance (so cliche). 

So let’s starts with each CHARACTER individually.

First off Libby. 

We know at the beginning of the book that she was “America’s Fattest Teen” and that she still has some self-esteem issues since she is still overweight. We also know that she returned to high school and wants to be part of the dance team.

Now Jack. 

We know that he has prosopagnosia (face blindness) and that he hangs out with the “popular” guys at school. Then we find out that he has never told anyone about this and not even his family. Oh, and he has a ‘perfect’ girlfriend named Caroline. 

Okay so, I get that they are “different” and that they need to deal with their problems, but this does not mean that falling in love will suddenly solve their problems. 

I have nothing more to say about them other than the fact that even though everything was told in first person and I could be ‘inside their heads’, I felt so disconnected from these characters. 

Also, what was the intention behind including secondary characters such as Libby’s dad and Caroline if they were irrelevant at the end? 

The only character that was ‘likable’ was Dusty. And even we couldn’t know more about him. 

Now, let’s talk about the PLOT: .

The only reason that Libby starts accepting herself, is because a guy likes her. A guy named Jack that was so immature that agreed to play “Fat Girl Rodeo” and publicly humiliate her. And then she finds out that he has prosopagnosia and falls in love with him? 

I get that there is an intention behind the message of “You are wanted” and that it doesn’t matter who you are, you should love yourself. This is the only reason I gave the book a 2-star rating instead of 1.

However, I don’t agree with the fact that the only reason you come to accepting yourself is because of someone else.  

If I had read this book when I was in high school, I wouldn’t have felt inspired. I’m sure it would’ve had the complete opposite effect. 

I can’t even identify exactly what the plot was other than two teenagers falling in love because of their “differences”.

Literally the whole “plot” goes like this:

– The new girl (Libby) feels like an outcast because she is overweight

– The cool guy (Jack) has a secret that no one knows about (that he has prosopagnosia) and has a ‘perfect girlfriend’

– That cool guy humiliates the new girl and they hate each other 

– Both of them have to spend time with each other

– They fall in love

– Jack ruins their relationship and goes back to his ex-girlfriend (surprise: he ruins things with her too)

– Jack makes up for everything and Libby loves him again 

– They live a happily ever after were Jack cannot see distinguish anyone except for Libby

There is this comment that I read online about this books and I felt like it was spot-on:

I’m honestly so sick of contemporaries in the present day that are just based around putting two characters in the worst possible situation and then forcing them to fall in love –I say forcing because there is 0 chemistry between these characters. I swear some authors just have a big long list of mental illnesses, diseases or unfortunate scenarios that they scroll down and eeny, meeny, miny, moe which ones will they choose. Dead parent for you, random illness for you, a bit of anxiety on the side as well as extreme obesity and we’ve got our perfect story ”. 

Cliches can be good when the characters are likable or intriguing and there is also a plot that doesn’t only revolve around two characters falling in love. For example, “Eleanor and Park”.  

In “Eleanor and Park”, Eleanor is the new girl who has red hair and is overweight and Park who is the quiet Asian guy that sits next to her on the school bus.

Yes, we know that they will fall in love, but there is also the intriguing part about how both of their families will react to them being together, especially taking into consideration Eleanor’s relationship with her siblings and her stepdad.  

There was no point in the book when I questioned if Libby and Jack were going to end up together. Also, it was obvious that Jack was going to choose Libby over Caroline.

There was one point in the book, towards the end, that I honestly didn’t know what else there was to add to the story. 

“Holding up the Universe” is a very predictable book that I would only recommend if you are the type of reader that likes cliches with a plot only focused on the love story between two “different” people.

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