Holding Up the Universe

Jennifer Niven

Holding Up the Universe
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Holding Up the Universe

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 see who she really is. Since her mum’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. 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 art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a 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 own 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, Libby and Jack are both angry, 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.

Jennifer Niven delivers another poignant, exhilarating love story about finding that person who sees you for who you are - and seeing them right back.


When I was first given Holding Up The Universe to review I wasn’t overly taken with what the blurb had to offer. I can’t put my finger on why I felt this way exactly, but as I started reading I realised it was because I was worried this was just going to be another bullying book about an overweight girl. And it is that, to an extent, but it is so much more.

Libby Strout is overweight. After the death of her mother, Libby’s weight skyrocketed to the point that she couldn’t roll over in bed anymore. But, she has lost 302 pounds (approx 137kg) and is set to go back to school and face her demons. Libby knows it isn’t going to be easy. People know what happened to her and she is ready for the bullying and the nastiness. What she isn’t ready for is Jack Masselin.

Jack Masselin is a bit of a clown. Coming across as confident and slightly arrogant, Jack hangs out with a couple of friends who get up to no good and find the idea of harassing and belittling people funny. But, to an extent, this is all an act for Jack, he’s just trying to protect himself from people finding out his secret. But when Jack decides to involve Libby in a really cruel game he unintentionally throws himself into the spotlight.

This is a brilliant novel about bullying. The character of Libby has been done perfectly, showing a teenage girl who is bullied horribly because of her weight still stick to her guns and stand up for herself. She isn’t perfect, we all have flaws, but she is human. And while, at times, I found it hard to warm to Jack because of his behaviour, you see a young man with troubles of his own.

Move over Katniss, a realistic heroine is taking your place. Highly recommended for ages 13 and up.

Katherine Dretzke is a friend of Readings.

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