Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven 


3.92  ·  Rating details ·  27,651 Ratings  ·  4,512 Reviews
Download or read online for free Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
Holding Up the Universe
by Jennifer Niven
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.

“Dear friend, You are not a freak. You are wanted. You are necessary. You are the only you there is. Don’t be afraid to leave the castle. It’s a great big world out there. Love, a fellow reader”

“We're all weird and damaged in our own way. You're not the only one.”

“People are shitty for a lot of reasons. Sometimes they're just shitty people. Sometimes people have been shitty to them and, even though they don't realize it, they take that shitty upbringing and go out into the world and treat others the same way. Sometimes they're shitty because they're afraid. Sometimes they choose to be shitty to others before others can be shitty to them. So it's like self-defensive shittiness.”





Reviews


Welcome to the internet in the year 2017. Where a simple book blurb broke the internet for a few days. A teenage girl who was rescued from her house because her weight kept her a prisoner. Then through in a statement about how she is returning to high school aka..the real world after being homeschooled.
I KNOW!! Let's all run and one star and bash the book.

Not.

And all you guys thought I was the biggest bully on here didn't you?

Because I had (for once) stopped to think about what the book meant..and it made me drool all over myself.
I didn't jump on the bandwagon. I wanted the book even more.
Because I've been a bit on the fat side many times in my life. I lose some weight and then I gain some weight. Big dang deal. (I can say that now-I couldn't when I was this character's age.) I home-school my kid. AND YES sometimes we talk about him joining the 'real world' again. Does that mean he is socially awkward? Hell no.

This book is something that if I had it in high-school I would have highlighted ever stinking line of it. It would have became my Shelby bible of how to deal with all the assholes that dwell in high-school. (and real life)

These characters:
Libby Stout, she is the girl that was taken from her house. By a crane. Because her mom had died suddenly and she could not cope. Food became her crutch, her dad didn't know how to deal with it and tried..he did try. But when someone is bent on self destruction-sometimes that path can't be detoured. She does finally reach that point (when the crane is brought out) that her dad knows that help is needed. He wants to save his daughter. He gets her help.
Then comes to the point in the story where she is going back to school. She has lost some weight, she is still overweight by public opinion. BUT this girl totally knows who she is.

For example..on the first day back at school.
"Hey," he says.
"Hey."
"Is it true fat girls give better blow jobs?"
"I don't know. I've never gotten a blow job from a fat girl.".


Jack Masselin: This kid hides the fact that he recognizes no one's face. Not even his own family. He once screamed that his mom was kidnapping him because she had gotten a haircut and he didn't have the familiar markers to place her in his mind.
He plays the cool guy at school but he lives in fear that someone will discover his secret.
Then they end up in group counseling together. This is not a boy rescue the fat girl story. This is a story of two people realizing who exactly they are..and owning it.
People are shitty for a lot of reasons. Sometimes they're just shitty people. Sometimes people have been shitty to them and, even though they don't realize it, they take that shitty upbringing and go out into the world and treat others the same way. Sometimes they're shitty because they're afraid. Sometimes they choose to be shitty to others before others can be shitty to them. So it's like self-defensive shittiness.

Books like this are exactly why I read young adult.
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You know I don't care what anyone thinks, I just loved the hell out of this book! I happy cried so many times in this book. And there will probably be some *SPOILERS* I don't know, my feelings right now are out of control. 
This review is going to be all over the place because I'm crazy and that's just the way it is.

I love Libby so much! In this book she has so much courage. Even when she was low and things hurt her, she had courage like no one I know. Those hateful, horrible kids said some of the most horrible things to her. I just can't fathom.

My name is Libby Strout. You've probably heard of me. You've probably watched the video of me being rescued from my own house. At last count, 6,345,981 people have watched it, so there's a good chance you're one of them. Three years ago, I was American's Fattest Teen. I weighed 653 pounds at my heaviest, which means I was approximately 500 pounds overweight. I haven't always been fat. The short version of the story is that my mom died and I got fat, but somehow I'm still here. This is no way my father's fault.

Two months after I was rescued, we moved to a different neighborhood on the other side of town. These days I can leave the house on my own. I've lost 302 pounds. The size of two entire people. I have around 190 left to go, and I'm fine with that. I like who I am. For one thing, I can run now. And ride in the car. And buy clothes at the mall instead of special-ordering them. And I can twirl. Aside from no longer being afraid of organ failure, that may be the best thing about now versus then.

Tomorrow is my first day of school since fifth grade. My new title will be high school junior, which, let's face it, sounds a lot better than America's Fattest Teen. But it's hard to be anything but TERRIFIED OUT OF MY SKULL.

I wait for the panic attack to come.


And of course we all know when she gets to school the jerkholes start bullying her! I hate them so much I could just scream!
But Libby is a force of nature. She don't take too much shite from anyone! She ignores it or in case of boys, she just knocks them on their arse! She my hero!

This is the way she meets the other main character, Jack. I love him too. I will get to him in a minute. He's going to do something to Libby that is a horrible prank for the big girls. He puts a note in her bag before talking about it and apologizing, but he gets what he deserves =)

I'm lying on the cafeteria floor, and the girl is standing over me. My jaw feels knocked loose, it's over somewhere in Ohio. I give it a rub to make sure it's still attached, and my hand comes away covered in blood.

I say, "What the hell?" My words are garbled. Jesus, I think she broke my voice box. "Why did you punch me?"

"WHY DID YOU GRAB ME?"


My eyes go to her backpack, to the letter sticking out of the pocket I just managed to shove it into. I want to say You'll understand later, but I can't speak because I'm wiping the blood from my mouth.

Jack is popular dude at the school, but he has a big problem. He has prosopagnosia.
PROSOPAGNOSIA: 1. An inability to recognize the faces of familiar people, typically as a result of damage to the brain. 2. when everyone is a stranger.

Jack has figured this out for himself by research. He has never told his family or friends. He gets away with it by other means. You can read the book and find out.

When Libby was little she lived across the street from three boys and I loved it because she called them Sam, Dean and Cas =) She loved the show "Supernatural" too. They were her only friends, well friends in her head. Until that day she was taken from her home by crane and moved away.

The story goes back and forth to things that happened in the past to the present. And, it wasn't confusing at all. I'm surprised because I get confused easy!

It turns out that Libby and Jack are pushed together by being in a group after school for being bad. Then they start to get to know each other and it's so fun and it's so wonderful. They help each other. And yeah, some sad stuff happens but it all works out in the end.

And let me tell you, there is one part where Libby stands up to the whole school in such a way that I cried my eyes out. I wish I could add the excerpt like the other ones but it's one you should read for yourself. I just love her. Did I say that already? This book makes me feel sad, mad and good. Libby makes me feel good for so many reasons and that's enough for me. I will read this many times and get some inspiration from Libby. I wish I had a friend like her. The saddest part is, I almost didn't read this book because of so many negative reviews. It does have a lot of good reviews but now I don't care what people think, I read what I want and I'm glad. I found a gem that works for ME! ♥
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This was equal parts special and frustrating for me. But definitely more emphasis on the special. There were moments when my Vulcan soul FAILED ME COMPLETELY and I turned into a mush of squishy feels. FEEEEEEEELS. I think Jennifer Niven is a WIZARD OF FEELS STABBING and I love her for it. Omg. I did love this book. I did. But there were several things that made me pout in a puddle but I'll get to them in a moment. PATIENCE, GRASSHOPPER.

Also: this is not as devastating as All the Bright Places. hahhaahha. THANK YOU. I DON'T FEEL LIKE MY HEART JUST GOT RIPPED OUT. But the whole time I was absolutely dreading the ending....so I actually have all the thumping gasping feels anyway because I WAS SO WORRIED. Ahem.

I'm having a crisis. Nevermind me.

So this story is about being seen, basically. It's equal parts about Libby (who is known as the "fattest teen in America") and Jack (who has prosopagnosia). I reeeally loved the storyline. It was so poignant and beautifully written. Like hold my cupcake, Bob, I need to yell THE WRITING OF JENNIFER NIVEN IS SOMETHING GORGEOUS TO BE UPHELD ACROSS THE MOUNTAINS. I love it. It gets me in the feels and makes me want to do glorious things. I loved the messages of self-worth and I loooved how everything tied together.

Brief List Of Other Things I Loved:
• There are Supernatural references. SO MANY SUPERNATURAL REFERENCES. #win
• There is SO MUCH DANCING.
• There is much diversity of colour, size, and (briefly) sexuality.
• Jack has a gorgeous afro and a deep love of his hair and this pleases me greatly because HAIR APPRECIATION IS MY THING.

I love love looooooved Jack. I GOTTA ADMIT HE IS A PRECIOUS CINNAMON ROLL OF BAD DECISIONS. He really makes sucky decisions. And he is a coward a bit. But at the same time I related to him a lot because of the face-blind aspect. I don't have prosopagnosia, but I struggle to recognise people's faces to a mild degree and I fail at reading emotions on faces completely -- so just the fact that Jack could walk into a room of people and have NO IDEA WHO THEY WERE OR WHAT THEY THOUGHT OF HIM was so relatable AND IT NEARLY MADE ME CRY.

Libby...I struggled with a lot. This is because she has a very self-righteous attitude and she makes just as many dumb decisions as Jack -- but yet she doesn't seem to ever be sorry about them? At least Jack recognised he was a JERK. Whereas Libby just justified herself. Plus there was a scene at the end. But I loved all the self-love Libby talked about and how she had SUCH epic slap-backs to the bullies. Like let me applaud.

AND DID I MENTION THERE IS SO MUCH DANCING?!?!? I love it. Jack and Libby just DANCE and it is the most simply beautiful thing of ever. THESE PRECIOUS CHILDREN OF HEART ACHE AND SORROW. <3

I also totally got squished with emotions. Mainly "omg this is adorable" and "omg I can't even with how much I love them" and "please do not let my precious adorable cinnamon roll Jack die because I love him so". Gaahhhhhhhhh...I loved this.

I mean, there are a few negatives. Aside from not really connecting with Libby at all, I was surprised that there wasn't much variation in the settings. I didn't really understand a lot of the characters motivations. Like why wouldn't Jack tell his parents he's face-blind?? And why wouldn't Libby go to the principal when she was bullied, yet she told other students to go to the principal when they were bullied?? I IS THE CONFUSED. Also Jack can't recognise his family (fair; he has a disorder and this makes sense) but even in his own home he says stuff like "the man I assume is my father"...which makes no sense, in my opinion, because heck, who else would it be?? I can recognise my family coming down the stairs without even looking at them. Maybe this is just picky: but there was a lot of repetition whenever he was with his family about him figuring out who was who despite it being pretty obvious with faces aside. I mean, he has ONE FEMALE (mother) in his house. Of course it's going to be his mother tell him to put the coffee down or whatnot???

All in all: duuuude, this story is a precious little universe and I could not put it down. I COULD NOT!! Every time I did, I wanted to snatch it back up again. I adored Jack and his lion-mane afro and his swagger. And I looove books that want to talk about self-worth and not hiding and just BEING YOU, because these are some of the most important things to talk about of ever. THE WRITING IS DIVINE AND I JUST HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS WHAT IS THIS.
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Holding Up the Universe was an interesting and moving read with complex characters and a unique storyline. I listened the the audio version of this book and once I hit play, I didn’t want to stop. When I read All the Bright Places earlier this year, I had the same feeling of being hooked. I’m happy to report the author was able to pull this off not once, but twice.

Our story centers around Libby Strout and Jack Masselin. Libby is formally ‘America’s Fattest Teen’. She’s spent a lot of her young adult life getting healthy and she is nowhere near thin, but she’s happy with herself. She decides to take the plunge, stop homeschooling and go to high school. Libby is a fantastic character. I loved that she’s just herself. She has a great relationship with her dad and meets some good friends throughout this journey for her. She also meets Jack Masselin in a very unconventional way.

Jack’s got it good in high school, or so everything thinks. He’s popular, has a pretty girlfriend and a lot of friends. He’s funny, charming and cool. But he struggles every single moment of every single day. See, Jack has this secret. He can’t recognize faces. I can’t even imagine how that would feel. To wake up each morning, look at my husband and not recognize his face. That’s how it is for Jack. He knows his brother’s hair style, and he can tell his other brother by his ears, but the system is not flawless. Libby is the only one who knows about this and is able to help him. He doesn't always deserve her help, but that's not the point. It's just the way Libby is. I love her for it.

Jack and Libby’s relationship is complicated at first. The way they meet, the reason they’re spending so much time together. Their friendship grew and developed as the story progressed. I loved them both and I loved that they had each others backs. Jack won me over early on, just knowing he was rooting for Libby from the very start warmed my heart. Even though there were some hard to read moments, the story, overall, was a positive one. I felt happy when I finished. I give this one 4 stars!

    Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

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REREAD! I fell in love with this book allll over again! I adore Libby. I adore what she stands for. I love what this book stands for. The hope it instills. How personal it is to the author and how appreciative I am that she shared her story with us. I'm rooting for this book! I'm rooting for myself. I'm rooting for all the readers who have ever felt less than. As Libby would say about herself, ‘I am magic!’, and so, as are you.



Initial review!
I'm sure a lot of you will remember the ton of backlash this book received when the blurb was revealed. I mean, let's not get into that aspect of people having the audacity to judge and write-off a book when they haven't read a single page of it. It's aggravating to the core!

So, having read the book, yes, there is a lot of 'fat-shaming' that's mentioned throughout the book. Fat-shaming that the main character has to deal with, i.e. the bullying she goes through, because of her weight. But also the main character 'fat-shaming' herself, because of her insecurity, as a direct result of the bullies and other factors.

I personally don't see how this is a problem, to bring to light this sort of issue. Yes, it was slightly uncomfortable to read at times, making it real and raw. But we ask for diverse and complex books/characters, then moan when a 'controversial' topic is raised. This is exactly the kind of realistic bullshit some people unfortunately, have to deal with, as ugly as it may seem. As well as the insecurity and the mental-health issues that come alongside it. I don't understand how it was even assumed that the author was ridiculing people who deal with weight and mental-health problems. If perhaps they'd waited a little longer for some clarification, and did their research, they'd have known that this topic is quite personal to the author.

But that's not all that the book is about. Yes, the character struggles with her weight, she's insecure to an extent, but she's absolutely fuckin' strong!!! She's almost sure about who she is. As sure as a teenager can be. She refuses to let her weight define her, stand in her way of her dreams, and fights the fuck back against anyone that dares to ridicule her. And she's happy, dammit!

This element is what made the book for me. She was headstrong to begin with, because she made herself be so! Though there are romantic aspects, her problems didn't magically disappear, because there was a guy in her life. But she refused to hide her true self.

Because of this, I feel that this book is so empowering! A book that those who feel that can relate to Libby, can find strength in. Though Libby encompasses aspects of her personality that may contradict or clash — i.e. being insecure, yet not giving a flying fuck about anyone — it's a great message that one can take away. You're never fully one or the other, anyway.

This is what I personally got from this book. I guess, like every other book, people will interpret it differently, according to their own understanding and worldview. And this is mine.


Initial review:
Okay, wow. It's 4am. Read this book in less than a day. My heart is floating. I'm dying with feels.

I was not expecting to love this book so much.
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“I know what you’re thinking- if you hate it so much and it’s such a burden, just lose the weight, and then that job will go away. But I’m comfortable where I am. I may lose more weight. I may not. But why should what I weigh affect other people? I mean unless I’m sitting on them, who cares?”

To be honest, I was not a fan of All the Bright Places and I wouldn’t have been this curious about Holding Up the Universe had it not been for the controversy that erupted long before its release. But the more the issue grew, the more I got so pulled to the book that I just had to buy it when it was out on our local bookstores. This time, my gut feel was right and the book is completely worth all my curiosity.

Let me help out our community of readers by pointing straight out what the book is/what it is not so as to avoid judging it just by its blurb alone.

But before that, just an excerpt from the book about “judging” *winks*: “Life is too short to judge others. It is not our job to tell someone what they feel or who they are. Why not spend some time judging yourself? I don’t know you, but I can guarantee you have some issues you can work on. And maybe you’ve got a fit body and a perfect face, but I’ll wager you have insecurities too…”

What the book is:

✔ A contemporary romantic novel so yes, it could be cheesy with several cheesy romantic declarations a girl wouldn’t normally hear from a guy [Now if you don’t like this stuff, then it’s probably not for you. ;)]

✔ It’s about mental illness. Both Libby and Jack suffer from unique sorts of mental illness. Libby suffered from depression while Jack has face-blindness or prosopagnosia.

✔ A serious read but approached with light, almost comic writing style that addresses social issues with positive conviction and inspiration.

✔ A moving, uplifting story that encourages people to be comfortable in their own skin, in their physical appearance/condition because that is what makes every person uniquely beautiful.

What the book is not:

✖ It's not about a fat girl whose life changes because of a cool guy. It’s actually about a cool girl and an equally cool guy who have decided to accept who and what they are even if that isn’t what is generally accepted by society.

✖ It’s not about a skinny guy telling the story of a fat girl. It’s about a special guy who sees a special girl not because of her physical weight but of her inner weight, because she has the biggest heart, because she matters greatly.

✖ It’s not trying to romanticize mental illness. It’s simply trying to say that everyone should have an equal chance at everything this life has to offer and yes even though it may sound cheesy, that does include love life, romance and all.

✖ It’s not against life. In fact, it’s very pro-life. It’s not about just moving on after a loss of a loved one but moving differently, creating new experiences and living life anew.

I agree with my friend, (Ate) Shelby. (Do check out her awesome, very insightful review by clicking her name). Ms. Jennifer Niven does deserve a pat on the back. If or when I meet her in person, I’m definitely giving her a big, big hug. <3
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I don't usually rate before reading but I am doing it here. If others who haven't read it can give it a 1 based on a synopsis, then I feel free to rate it a 5/5 before reading.

I have a few questions:

1. Why are people getting annoyed and commenting that a 'skinny' author shouldn't be writing about a 'fat' person?!? Are we saying that authors should only write about what they are? No more white authors writing about anything other than a white character then. George R.R. Martin please stop publishing, you've never been a dragon or a woman so I think you need to stop writing about them. J.K. Rowling, are you a witch... No?!? Take back HP, it's all lies!

2. The human race thing... Why are people sniping in on that? Do they not understand the context. It's not saying she's finally rejoining the human world because she wasn't human before. It talks about the fact she was homeschooled... away from others. She's going back to school... rejoining the human race is just a quirky way of putting it. I've used similar phrases when I've returned to work after two weeks off sick.

3. The crane: This has been a reality for so many people who are very overweight so why can't it be wrote about or shown in movies!?! >.<


Gah. Maybe wait till you've read the book before you judge every little thing about it. It's like a 100 word synopsis for god sake >.<
Source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28686840-holding-up-the-universe

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