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.

Quick Thoughts and Rating: 4 stars! Funny, sincere, heartbreakingly hopeful and one hundred percent heartfelt, Niven’s YA follow-up to her bestselling All the Bright Places (which I totally loved, you can read my review of it here), Holding Up the Universe, was a damn good read. It delivered on important messages like love yourself, be compassionate, and it made you contemplate the type of person you are and the kind of person you want to be.

♥ Review: There was so much to adore about this book, but by far my favorite was our two narrators and main characters, Libby and Jack. I loved Libby for everything that she’d endured and how she stood taller in the presence of current foes and nay-sayers just to prove that her haters in the past hadn’t tore her down. Jack’s brain injury and ailment, face-blindness, was not a condition that I’d ever heard about before, so it was really interesting to dive into his head and see the world through his eyes, as well as be sympathetic to how crushing and frustrating that it would be to not remember the faces of anyone, especially your family and friends. The way that these two were forced together and their eventual connection felt very natural, and I appreciated the ease in which they fell into friendship and then something more. I also really enjoyed how realistically Niven portrayed high school, even though at times the bully and mean girl factor seemed a tad too “extra” when we’d already established that those people were pretty crappy people.

As for why I rated this a 4 instead of 5-star book, it all came down to those loose ends and the small details. I feel like so many of the secondary plots were left dangling, like Jack’s parents’ situation and a couple of others, and with them not having some sense of resolution (to me), it felt a little incomplete. Additionally, while I liked the arc of the character developments we saw from our two main characters, I was missing that growth from some of the other characters we were introduced to, like Caroline for instance. I wanted to know why she was the way she was and for her to have that moment of clarity like Ah-ha! I’m kind of an asshole and I probably need to work on myself! 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I think Niven did a good job of respectfully handling some of the sensitive subjects handled throughout the course of the book. She’ll continue to be an author whose work I look forward to reading.

♥ Teaser Quote: Libby is so very much herself and I dug the hell out of that! The following teaser is a message from her within the book, and I think it’s a pretty damn important one at that.

     As for the rest of you, remember this: YOU ARE WANTED. Big, small, tall, short, pretty, plain, friendly, shy. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, not even yourself.
     Especially not yourself.

– quote taken from Holding Up the Universe, pg. 317

Book Rating Breakdown
General Book Feels
Cute, Fuzzies, Flutters

♥ Rec It? Yes! I truly loved Libby and Jack, and I loved their perspective and view of the world. Niven just proved she’ll be an author whose work I continue to look forward to, inevitably buy, and will devour in a day.

Full of giggles, flails, snark and Southern endearments. Avid Reader. Lover of swoony boys, kickass heroines, yummy kissing scenes, and pretty prose.

I like to draw hearts in the sky (eternal optimist) and wish on stars (forever dreamer). Documentaries, sweet tea, sleep, and brightly colored knee-socks are a few of my favorite things. ♥

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