Jennifer Niven, once again, turns a simple love story into a beautiful life lesson that readers will be sure to remember. To be perfectly honest, I am still recovering from reading All the Bright Places which I read many months ago. Holding up the Universe similarly tells the story from the dual perspectives of a boy and a girl who experience different hardships in the same circumstances.
We have Jack Masselin who is the “cool guy” at school and from the outside it seems like Jack has it all together but his family is falling apart and he has this rare disorder which inhibits him from recognising faces. On the other hand there is Libby who is labeled America’s Fattest Teen and along with her weight she also has to constantly deal with the loss of her mother. When Jack and Libby meet, the reader is taken on a journey where two teenagers try to tackle the weight the universe bestows upon them.
The thing I love most about Jennifer’s novels is that she integrates her own life experiences into her stories. This enables the reader to form a connection with the author and hence, you’re more susceptible to agree with the message the novel is sending. While this novel was not as emotionally scarring as All the Bright Places, it was just as powerful.
Libby’s weight issues and following her development in the novel from being a homebound girl to this confident young woman encourages all insecure chickens out there to just be comfortable in the skin you’re given. Through work of fiction, Jennifer has managed to spread a positive message which I’m sure resonates with a lot of teenagers. Not only that, by integrating diversity in race, gender, weight etc. the reader is challenged to break stereotypes.
The novel also raises awareness about face-blindness which I had no idea about before I read this book. I absolutely love the fact that apart from life lessons you’re also learning science in this novel. You’re learning how to speak out if you have a problem and about the effects of cancer and loss on a person.
Instead of writing a typical boy-girl romance and leaving it at that, Jennifer delves deeper into the issues that continue to haunt young people in today’s society.