Holding Up The Universe book Review by Jennifer Niven
I have a lot of emotion attached to this book even though I am going to concede and say that it was probably too young for me. I am going on 34 years old this year, but I was really excited for Holding Up The Universe.
I received an ARC (advanced reader copy) from the lovely people over at Penguin Australia and was really excited to tear in to it around October last year. It also happened to be a time when I was really busy with this blog, posting reviews every other day and basically reading in every instance.
After I started reading this book my own world started to crumble and my Mum was admitted to hospital after a massive seizure caused by her end-stage of cancer. I remember sitting in the shitty hospital chair beside my Mum while leafing through the pages reading and rereading each page over and over again because I was unable to absorb the story.
One of the important points to make in this story was that Libby, the protagonist’s mother had died unexpectedly and her whole world seemed to stop. I related to that – as I, too, felt like I was holding up the universe.
Needless to say I had to put the book down. In fact, I put all books down until my Mum’s funeral and passing was all done and dusted by Chrismtas last year. I’ve been reading but not reviewing like I was and I decided that it was time to pick it up again and open up the blog properly again.
So, Holding Up The Universe, as I said was probably a bit young for me, but for the loser at high schooler in me would have loved this suspension of reality. Libby is an overweight teenage girl who, after being removed from her house by a crane on her death bed, finds herself leading a regular life again. After shedding some of the weight and addressing some of her problems she is happier and confident and already has her heart set on joining the school’s dance troupe.
Enter-in Jack Masselin, school jock who has a rare neurological issue that causes facial blindness. He hides this disease from his family and manages to keep his secret along with his jock friends. As a prank, his friend dares him to take part in a “fat rodeo” where he is required to straddle Libby and stay on for as long as he can.
Defensively, she punches him and soon they both end up in after school detention.
The two make an unlikely connection that neither of them can deny as a buddy romance.
I’ve read Goodreads reviews that have torn this apart for its unrealistic look at high school relationships. I can concede that the chances of the jock / bully becoming sympathetic and even loving toward the underdog, but that doesn’t really make this book any less special.
Books for us are a suspension of reality — for me, these past few months have been about busying myself and avoiding my grief for as long as I can in any way that I can so as to fill the void of my mother’s passing. In this story, Libby chose food to fill the loneliness, I’ve chosen other ways to avoid feelings and largely, I found myself relating to the sadness that she feels deep within.
The teenager that lived within me that felt a huge level of anxiety and social ineptness can only ever dream of a boy like Jack Masselin seeing them and wanting to fall for them. It’s not very realistic especially when I consider the assholes who I went to school with, but that’s the joy of a book and that suspension of everything that we avoid in life.
I am able to applaud the confidence and ability for Libby who is able to shrug off the constant bullying and taunting and for her ability to spread a clear message when so many were unable to look past her size.
Holding Up The Universe was sweet and easy to read and the message, you are loved was clear and prevalent throughout the entire book.