- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (October 4, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385755929
- ISBN-13: 978-0385755924
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Holding Up the Universe Hardcover – October 4, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Libby Strout is used to being alone. After her mother's unexpected death, she had eaten her grief away to the point of morbid obesity. Her trials and challenges with this issue turned her into a social media spectacle and forced her into seclusion. Now she is entering high school after years of homeschooling and a medical surgery that helped her go from 600 to 300 pounds. Jack Masselin is the resident bad boy and part of the "in" crowd, but his behavior is all a facade to cover up a big secret. Jack has prosopagnosia, a neurological condition that causes facial blindness. He uses identifiers such as hairstyles and voice recognition and has mastered the art of keeping people at bay so as not to betray his disability. Libby's and Jack's worlds eventually collide after a bullying incident and poor judgment, which places them both in after-school detention. As their friendship grows, they learn what truth and honesty are all about. Libby's unique presence and drive to be herself permeate this poignant story. Jack, who is biracial, transcends the popular pretty boy trope. Both are complex, nuanced protagonists. Written in short chapters of alternating perspectives, this is a thoughtful exploration of identity and self-acceptance, with commentary on overcoming adversities that will hit close to home. The work also examines anxiety, mixed-race marriages, and LGBTQ issues. VERDICT Niven's approach to hard-hitting subjects will speak to the intellectual teen crowd, including fans of Niven's previous work, Emery Lord's The Start of Me and You, and Nicola Yoon's Everything, Everything.—Sabrina Carnesi, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, VA
★ "[Niven] creates two indelible characters and a heart-stopping romance." —Publishers Weekly starred review
★ "Written in short chapters of alternating perspectives, this is a thoughtful exploration of identity and self-acceptance, with commentary on overcoming adversities that will hit close to home." —School Library Journal starred review
★ "This is a worthy addition to any young adult collection; the story is engaging and difficult to put down." —VOYA starred review
"Niven’s honest writing shares a story of friendship, confidence, strength, and identity—and it’s not one to be missed." —Buzzfeed.com
"Libby and Jack are two characters who will reach out of the page and climb into your heart! . . . [A] beautiful love story." —Justine Magazine
"A novel about love and how important it is to be seen." —Popsugar.com
"Moving. . . . The true heart of the tale lies in personal growth and learning to love yourself." —Bookish.com
“I've never fallen in love with characters as fast as I fell for Libby and Jack. . . . Holding Up the Universe is a beautiful reminder of the power of understanding.” —Jay Asher, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Thirteen Reasons Why
“Gorgeously written and oh-so-deeply felt, Holding Up the Universe contains one of my favorite characters of all time! You will absolutely fall in love with Libby Strout!” —Nicola Yoon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything
“At once hilarious and achingly poignant, Jennifer Niven’s Holding up the Universe brims with love and heart and hope. A gorgeous, life-affirming book that—like its lovable and resilient main character, Libby—will make you want to open your arms wide, lift your face to the sky, and twirl.” —Kerry Kletter, author of The First Time She Drowned
Praise for All the Bright Places:
“[A] heartbreaking love story about two funny, fragile, and wildly damaged high school kids.” —Entertainment Weekly
“A do-not-miss for fans of Eleanor & Park and The Fault in Our Stars, and basically anyone who can breathe.” —Justine Magazine
“At the heart—a big one—of All the Bright Places lies a charming love story about this unlikely and endearing pair of broken teenagers.” —The New York Times Book Review
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Top Customer Reviews
Here's the thing...I liked the book. It was totally fine and somewhat intriguing. It was fast paced and I found myself rooting for the characters, but it just lacked....ooomf....punch....pizazz.
It seems totally unfair to an author to compare their second book to their first, especially of their first was such a mega-hit, but All the Bright Places was such a shot to the gut....I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for that to happen....and it just never did.
Libby is fierce and you root for her, for sure. When she punches Jack in the cafeteria, I uttered a heck yeah! She's been through some deep crap with her mom's death and her unwanted celebrity status, but she's tough and wants what she wants...but I felt like I was on a date and the author couldn't quite close the deal.
I never felt the sexual tension. I never really bonded much with Jack at all. His story is meaningful, but it was messy and I kept hoping for his chapters to go quickly to get back to Libby.
The book was fine. My students will probably like it more than me. But that is all.
Having gained an enormous amount of weight following her mother’s sudden death, Libby Strout is the fat girl whose house had to be cut in order to remove her from it. Determination and counseling helped Libby lose a significant amount of weight and to see herself as a valuable, interesting individual rather than someone to be pitied or scorned. Jack Masselin is handsome, popular, and talented when it comes to creating and constructing mechanical things. Jack, however, cannot recognize faces; he remembers details about an individual in order to identify that person. A cruel high school prank results in the two being required to enter group counseling. As they begin to learn about one another, Libby and Jack start to see the strengths and positive qualities each has rather than focusing on their differences and an unlikely friendship develops. The novel progresses as one would expect to a very satisfying conclusion.
Jennifer Niven writes with sensitivity and understanding about the issues Libby faces as a fat girl and of Jack’s inability to remember faces. Readers will begin to see these two characters as real people, likeable in many ways and having problems similar to other teens. The understanding and the compassion expressed by both characters, as well as by some of the girls with whom Libby had been friends, will impress readers. These characteristics provide good life lessons for young readers to model in their own lives.
“Holding Up the Universe” is not difficult to read. There are numerous uses of the “f-word” throughout the novel; this is not an unusual speech term for many of those in the target group – ages 14 years and older. There is some discussion about sex, but it is not graphic or gratuitous; neither is it something that many teen readers will be encountering for the first time. The overall message of accepting yourself and others, and of tolerance is far stronger than the negatives of this novel.
Author: Jennifer Niven
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2016
Genre: YA Contenporary, YA Fiction
This review can be found at TeacherofYA dot Wordpress dot com
This is my first ever contemporary read. I’m shaking because I’m so excited to write this review!
When it comes to contemporary, I’m a little hesitant. I usually like my stories to have some sort of science fiction or fantasy element and I was convinced I couldn’t love or enjoy a book without it.
I was wrong.
But I digress, as usual…
This title was one I wanted to read. When I get into this, you’ll probably understand the “why” behind it.
Libby Strout was known as America’s Fattest Teen. At 653 pounds, she was housebound. The day came when she had to be removed from her house by a crane to get to the hospital. That alone can lower anyone’s self-esteem, especially when people from the neighborhood crowd around and watch. Talk about humiliating.
Bit Libby’s not that girl anymore. Though she still is over 300 pounds (which may sound like a lot, it’s really not as big as one pictures), Libby can move. Libby can go outside. And Libby can dance. She’s happy in her own skin…most of the time. And it’s time for Libby to go back to school.
Jack Masselin seems like he’s got it all together. He knows how to smile, style his hair so it towers above everyone, and walk with swagger. No one knows that since 6 years old, he’s been face-blind. Prosopagnosia. The area of Jack’s brain that creates the ability to recognize and store faces is damaged. Everyone is a stranger. When mistakes happen, he laughs it off like he’s playing around. He hasn’t been diagnosed: he self-diagnosed so his family won’t know. So his friends won’t know. Because Jack has constructed an image, and if he’s not careful, that image will shatter.
After a mean prank on Libby goes terribly wrong, both Libby and Jack are forced into after-school counseling and community service. Jack feels bad for what he did to Libby, and he writes a letter telling her (and only her) what’s going on with him. He always seems to be able to pick Libby out because she’s the largest girl in the room. But that’s not all Jack is starting to notice about Libby.
Libby loves to dance. She’s also warm and seems to care about what Jack’s going through. Libby and Jack start to talk more, and though both refuse to believe it (Libby because it’s JACK MASSELIN and Jack because it’s LIBBY STROUT), but something is happening between them.
Maybe size doesn’t determine someone’s worth. Maybe not recognizing a face doesn’t mean you’re broken.
Maybe Jack and Libby are good together…they just don’t know it yet.
Is It Classroom-Appropriate?
Yes yes yes! This book is perfect! Insecurity, bullying, mental illness, eating disorders…you name it, this book’s got it! This has a plethora of teachable moments. I could whip up a lesson plan right now and use this in a classroom. So many topics to discuss! And there’s inappropriate (besides a couple instances where Libby fantasizes about “sexing” the weight off her (but who as a teen doesn’t think something like that?).
Lexile.com marks this as HL770L, which means more mature content that can still be understood at lower levels. However, the 770 is pretty high. So this book seems to be perfect for a high school classroom, preferably sophomore or junior year (as a good target audience).
Lexile has me on this one at 14 and up. I agree. This is great for freshman level and up, but I think would do more in the hands of sophomore level readers (unless you have an advanced reader). The themes are complex and there is a lot of self-reflection and discovery. A good study in human behavior. No one is perfect: every e has flaws.
Though Lexile suggests 14 to 18, I would like to mention that there are plenty of 13 year olds that could handle this book. I wouldn’t use it in middle school, but it wouldn’t be horrible to have advanced readers pick this up. I personally wouldvevread this at 10 and been happy…but I had only Stephen King to read, and this is much tamer than that.
I want to let you in on a little secret: I was Libby Strout.
No, I didn’t ever get as high as 600+ pounds, but I was HEAVY. Boys would pretend to ask me out and then laugh if I would say yes. Some boys would “date” me for other reasons, but wouldn’t want anyone to know, so we had to keep it secret. I had one boyfriend in high school, a guy that was three years older, and he treated me like garbage. So yeah, I know Libby’s pain. And I didn’t even know how to dance, so Libby has me beat there.
I’m still plus sized, but many people tell me that they would never believe I weigh as much as I do. I’m working on it, but it’s hard. “Fat” people don’t always eat too much; in fact, many plus sized girls forget to eat. That slows our metabolism down. Exercise sounds like such a simple solution, but when you are heavy, it’s hard to motivate yourself to do anything. Your metabolism (if like mine) makes you sleepy and tired after a long day. I was Libby, and in a lot of ways, I still am Libby. I didn’t try out for anything because I was the “fat” girl, and “fat” girls don’t get to wear uniforms. My old band teacher in eight grade told me if I went another size up over the summer, I wouldn’t have a band costume.
I dropped band after that, and especially after he called me “Jenny.” He didn’t care.
I’d like to think there’s love for all of us Libby Strouts out there. I’ve had some good boyfriends and some bad. Hopefully more books like this will make teens understand that plus size doesn’t mean having just “a pretty face” or wanting to hear, “you would be so much prettier if you just lost the weight.” (Sorry, that my mom talking through me…she told me in third grade to remember that, “nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.”
I was a messed up kid. My mom told the cafeteria lady to not let me buy ice cream…I had a friend who would buy it for me. Ahhh, memories. And I wasn’t even plus-sized then.
See, my mom has the opposite problem: she can’t eat because she’s borderline anorexic. It’s kind of scary.
Ok…enough about me. Let me rate this book. I give Holding Up The Universe ★★★★☆. It was a lovely foray into contemporary for me, and I will always remember the contents of this book.