Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Received from NetGalley for review.

2.5 stars

This is a really hard book for me to review, because I bloody loved Libby most of the time, but I have a lot of issues with it as well. One great character can’t carry a book, especially when that book insists on introducing heavy topics but lacks the appropriate depth to explore them, shoves stereotypes in your face, and essentially makes a mockery of real and debilitating conditions. It was also so predictable that I ended up skimming a lot of it.

Holding Up the Universe started well – I was immediately intrigued by Jack’s letter and drawn in by Libby’s sassy and realistic narration. I was also pretty certain, however, how the plot would go (inevitable nauseating romance that shouldn’t work, everyone is a better person blah blah blah) and I knew I would be pissed off if that happened. Both Libby and Jack want to feel ‘normal’ (whatever the hell that is) and accepted, and don’t because of their personal circumstances, but their pairing never felt right – there was no chemistry between them, nothing that made me want them to connect and be together, so I immediately knew that if/when that happened I would be rolling my eyes and losing interest.

The good:
– Libby Strout. So sassy. I loved her, for the most part. Fatty relatability? Who knows, but I really enjoyed reading her chapters and the way she faced life. Not so keen on her obsession with being loved by some guy – just because you’re fat doesn’t mean you’re repulsive – or her change in attitude towards Jack, but I’m not a forgiving person at all and I can accept that teenagers are hormonal weirdos that make sense to no one.
– Easy to read, can’t go wrong with that one. Issues with the plot aside, Niven has a very fluid style.
– Introduction of difficult topics. Obesity, depression, death, grief, anxiety, prosopagnosia, bullying, are all part of the book, although they lack depth within the story and, for the most part, are used a cheap plot device to facilitate romance.

The bad:
– Jack Masselin. No matter your personal issues/condition, you do not have the right to be an asshole and hurt others. I also found it hard to believe that he made it to fourteen without realising something was going on with him, and that his family didn’t realise before that, AND that no one else noticed anything. Not buying it, it’s too unbelievable.
– Lack of depth. There is no point introducing heavy and difficult topics if you aren’t going to explore them; serious issues need to be dealt with sensitively, not used as a plot device.
– Idiotic romance. I think it’s fairly obvious from the blurb what will happen, and it did, and I am not a fan
– Abundant stereotypes. Douchey teenage boys, evil blonde cheerleaders, two misunderstood teens finding love and understanding with each other. Nauseating.

Overall, Holding Up the Universe started well, but was lacking where it mattered – you can’t use illnesses/conditions as a platform for a ridiculous romance. There was so much potential with this that sadly wasn’t realised which is a shame. It could have said so much and made a real impact.

Read: October 18th-23rd 2016

2.5/5 stars

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