Review of Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven
FACTS ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: Holding Up The Universe
Author: Jennifer Niven
Genre: High School drama including body & health issues
BACK OF THE BOOK
The book consists out of very short chapters, which are often only a page long and wherefore it reads itself very easily and quickly. I really enjoyed that because it let me fly through it in a way that I never do when there are long chapters. There's just always this motivation to read another page and another and another, while long chapters rather prevent my reading motivation. So I really liked that.
Since I am very afraid of spoilers, I read nothing about the book before I read it. Now that I've read it, I would actually really advise you to read the back of the book beforehand because it might help you to determine whether you want to read about these topics or not. I just bought it because I heard great stuff about it, which is why I was quite surprised to find out what it's actually about.
The two main topics it deals with are obesity and prosopagnosia. Don't worry if you don't know what the latter means, I think most people don't. It's face blindness, which gets explained quite beautifully throughout the book. I never heard of that illness before and found it very interesting to get to know more about it. That rare illness and the quite unusual weight problem made the two protagonists special and unique because they had to deal with things that I never read about.
There were a lot of geeky references in this book - mostly in the beginning. I loved that very much and can recommend the book especially to Supernatural fans, since those references came up quite often throughout the whole book.
I really admired the protagonist Libby for her strong character and loved how her self-esteem was portrayed. She felt very realistic to me because of all her insecurities.
It was very heartwarming to read about Jack's strong love and wish to protect his little brother. I could very much relate to that and liked that the book spend some beautiful scenes on this bond.
Libby's past, especially concerning her mother, was really touching and made me emotional.
Unfortunately, the book didn't really have an actual plot. It's just about a few days in the lives of two people in which nothing significant actually happens. It's much more about some small steps and developments in the lives of two teenagers who have both some rather unusual problems.
It's definitely very beautifully written and a nice read to pass the time, but nothing groundbreaking that will stay with me forever.
The book does have an important and beautiful message but after glimpsing at the three sentences of the back of the book before I bought it, I expected so much more of that self-encouraging, self-loving message than there was actually in the book.
The issues of the two protagonists will probably stay with me because of their rareness and unusuality but not really their story, which was unfortunately rather unspectacular. What they got was a realistic story for their age but also nothing special at all. The story was mostly set in school, at home or at parties.. and that also kept it from being an exceptional book for me.
I really didn't need the lovestory in this book. I found that to be extremely unnecessary. It also gave the "You are wanted." message the unpleasant undertone of "You are wanted if a boy is attracted to you.", while I would have much rather had it to be "You are wanted because you are whole just the way you are.", if that makes any sense. I think that the lovestory needed way too much time in the story and held the characters back from focussing on themselves and their process to self-acceptance.
So in general, I had just hoped that the book would focus more on selflove and body positivity than it actually did. You should rather lower your expectations there because than you could actually be pleased with the amount of it that's actually in the book.
Another problem that I had with the book was, that it didn't make me feel anything - except for what I mentioned earlier about Libby's mum. The lovestory didn't work for me, there was no chemistry, no spark, nothing that made me "ship" them. I felt that there was an understanding between them, a connection, but I would have much rather had them support each other as friends than them being more than that.
There was a different issue that I had, which confused me very often throughout the book. There were a few friends of Libby's that just suddenly appeared without further introduction and I couldn't quite understand in what relation they were to Libby.
I enjoyed the lists that mostly appeared in Jack's chapters. I always enjoy it when there's a different writing style in a book.. that just makes a book fresher for me.
Especially the way in which Jack's illness was portrayed was beautifully written. As the reader I also didn't know who any of the people around Jack were and had to discover them through his eyes, through his way of identifying them. I really found that to be a great way to help the reader understand a little what that must feel like.
Can I recommend this book to you?
Yes, I would recommend it to you as a quick read which is a bit more special than other quick reads because of its unusual characters. But I would suggest you to lower your expectations and rather expect a mediocre book that you wouldn't miss if you hadn't read it.