Long Lost Review: Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 4th October 2016Goodreads badge
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 391
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  ★  ★ – 4 Stars

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 counselling 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 wish I’d taken more notes at the time but I think I was so drawn in by this book everything was great and I left it at that. This is a fabulous book, it breaks my heart, oh my god it breaks my heart but it’s so fantastic at the same time.

Niven explains living with prosopagnosia quite well. It must be incredibly hard to live with, as Jake explains. I never quite understood why he didn’t tell his family, the wider world yes, but family would have been able to help him out a lot. It’s amazing that he hasn’t been caught out before.

Libby’s self-confidence is insurmountable which is refreshing, and I liked how each of the character’s flaws were for different reasons than you’d expect. I will say I did not like the event that bought Libby and Jack together, I know it gets worked out and Libby can do what she wants but it felt so wrong and I’m amazed they both managed to move past it. It felt like an unnecessary attack and I can see why Niven did it, I can, but it still felt cruel. But maybe that’s the point. You do see growth come out of it so there is that. I had also forgotten about how much Libby loves We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I understand why she likes it, but it is strange to see her love it when I hated it so much.

I would like to reread this one day, it definitely seemed like the kind of story you could happily revisit, the characters were fun, the story was emotional but well written and I think I wouldn’t mind going on their rocky journey together again and remembering exactly everything that makes it so wonderful.

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