Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publication Date: October 4th, 2016
Point of View: 1st Person & Boy-Girl
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Romance, High School, Contemporary, Body Health, Mental Health
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.
Ah, this book… What a sweet love story.
First, the diversity. The heroine, Libby, is fat (though she used to be fatter) and Jack is Black and has a condition that makes him unable to recognize anyone, even friends or the people he loves.
I hope you’re not shocked by my blunt description of Libby. If you are, I suggest you do not read this book, because it talks about weight extensively, and Libby is indeed overweight. Although, while this affects her life, she is happy with the fat she lost and is a truly inspiring character who doesn’t hesitate to bring up weight in order to make a point.
I think many readers didn’t like how often weight is brought up in a conversation or how Libby never managed to escape her own, whether at school, in public or with Jack. But as someone who understands what it’s like to have more weight than the average girl, I can tell you someone who isn’t skinny is faced to think about her weight every single day. It’s something you have to accept and start being comfortable with if possible, because there will always be times when you’ll wish you could wear that top or for that guy over there to look at you.
So you have to kind of be like, YOU KNOW WHAT, I FEEL PRETTY SO SHUT UP. And Libby is the kind of person who’ll give you an entire sermon if you start complaining about your weight. She’ll motivate you to think differently or maybe even start pulling yourself together and eat and behave in a healthy way. But she herself has to figure some things out. After all, she has been home schooled for many years now, and isn’t used to being in public much anymore. So this path she has to take, in order to become familiar again with the outside world, is full of obstacles and little demons, but she knows she has to take it anyway.
I know I’ve barely mentioned Jack–who, incidentally, is a very important character also–but that’s because I’ve connected so much to Libby and she prompted me to think about so many topics. Plus it does somewhat feel like this is Libby’s book. Without Jack, some things would be bleak, but there still would be a story. Without Libby, this wouldn’t be a book.
Not at all a realistic ending though…
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