I think its safe to say that I haven't been the most consistent blog writer in the world but I'm really going to try to write more from now on.
So today I finished "Holding Up the Universe" by Jennifer Niven (and started it actually- 400 pages all in one day is pretty good for me) and so I thought I might write a bit of a review for anyone who may be interested.
THIS REVEIW WILL BE SPOILER FREE UNTIL THE FINAL PARAGRAPH, IF YOU PREFER NOT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS AT THE END PLEASE STOP READING WHEN APPROPRIATE.
Firstly, the plot. The story takes place in Indiana, USA and revolves around two main characters: Libby, formerly known as "America's Fattest Teen", and Jack, a boy with a neurological disorder called Prosopagnosia which means that he cannot identify people by their faces. After an incident that meant Libby had to be lifted out of her house by crane due to her size, she has lost a lot of weight and is physically able to return to high school where she is still known as "the fat girl" in one way or another. Jack, on the other hand, is suffering from some problems at home and refuses to tell anyone about his disorder and so, as a cover-up, becomes known as "the bully". The story follows these two characters and portrays the developments in their relationship that lead to them seeing each other for who they really are as people and not just their labels.
This book is a young adults fiction and so its fair to say that the writing style is fairly simplistic. For me it was definitely an easy and relaxed read but not to the extent that I felt the story was too young for me. As much as I love YA fiction my one gripe is when authors make too many obvious references to modern technology and clothing brands in order to "appeal to the younger generation" and so I'm really glad that there weren't too many of them in this book. The story is told through the altering perspectives of Jack and Libby which I think gave the book a more varied perspective on the characters and their experiences of high school as Jack and Libby are extremely different characters. Overall I really enjoyed the writing although one thing I didn't like as much was that I jumped around a bit in terms of flashbacks and cutting forward to the next relevant scene. For me it was a bit hard to keep track of and unnecessary as I think the story would have worked just as well in chronological order. The only other thing I found was that the chapters were extremely short and didn't provide much of a stopping place so that I could put the book down for a while although I suppose this could be a good thing and it says a lot about the writing style which is quite fast-paced.
In terms of the characters, generally, I didn't really relate on a personal level with either Libby or Jack as both of them are a lot more outspoken than I am, but I could definitely appreciate both. I really liked how the book focused on their lives outside of each other too as both of them had problems and successes and aspirations of their own which I think really added to the realism as relatability of the characters. Also I really liked looking at their inner conflicts which was a huge perk of the dual narration. Jack and Libby had perspectives on themselves and their lives and the people around them that were almost polar opposite in someways but incredibly similar in others which, for me creates chemistry and a natural bond between the two which, I think, was appropriately developed throughout the story.
In terms of the other characters Bailey and Jayvee were a little bit too good to be true, in my opinion, and although I liked them both as characters I don't think that they added anything tot he plot. I really liked Jack's friend Dave Kaminski as I feel like my opinion of him really changed as the story went on and, for me, there was a lot of depth to his character. I thought that Jack's ex girlfriend Caroline had the potential to be a really interesting character and give the reader some insight into the mind of "the popular girl" but, for me, she fell a bit flat. I also really liked Jack's youngest brother Dusty as I felt that, for a child, he was naturally wise and therefore was able to teach Jack something about himself more effectively than an adult could, lessons which also transpire to the reader as I feel like everyone questions their own morality at some point and wanders if they are actually a good person and therefore everyone can relate, even a little bit, and everyone can take something away from his lessons.
WARNING, THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF THE FINAL PARAGRAPH WHERE I WILL BE DISCUSSING THE ENDING. I YOU DONT WANT TO READ ANY SPOILERS PLEASE CLICK OFF HERE.
Okay so finally, the ending. I was half expecting one of them to die towards then end of this book after having read All The Bright Places (this book is a thousand percent better than Niven's previous novel in my opinion) so I'm really glad that didn't happen. I think the fact that while drunk and probably high, Jack suddenly realises that he can remember Libby's face and rushes to tell her then next morning is a bit optimistic to say the least and probably not at all realistic. However, after thinking about it for a while I can get past this as I think it an be read metaphorically. To Jack and pretty much everyone else at their high school, Libby's identifier has always been her weight and her physical appearance in that respect and so, for me, Jack's memory of her face isn't caused by the way it looks, it is a reflection of the way he sees her as a result of her personality. For me, this enforces the fact that what you look like does not dictate who you are as a person and that the people who really love you will be able to look past any physically imperfections and see you for who you are which I think is the main message behind the whole story: that you get to decide how people see you, regardless of how you look. I really appreciated this message and think that part of the reason I enjoyed the book so much was not only the dynamic between Jack and Libby (which was the perfect combination of soppy, funny and interesting in my opinion) but the message that comes at a time in my life when I need to hear it. I also think that there is room for a sequel to this book although I doubt it will ever be written. Personally, I'd like to go a bit deeper into the world of Libby and Jack. I'd like to see how Libby learns to deal with her her anxiety and addresses her remaining weight issues and insecurities and also how prosopagnosia affects Jack in situations outside of school and how he learns to deal with it. I would also really like to see developments in their relationship and how they overcome problems such as their shared insecurities as it progresses.
So those are my thoughts on Jennifer Niven's newest book. Let me know what you thought of it if you have already read it and please leave some suggestions and reccomedations for what to read next if you have any.
Until next time,