Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven Book Review

Looking for a new book for your teen? Holding Up the Universe is a contemporary YA novel that follows two teens who couldn’t be more opposite as they navigate family, friends and hardships in a heartwarming way.

book synopsis

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. 

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

book review

 “We’re all weird and damaged in our own way. You’re not the only one.”

We fell in love with Jack and Libby and your teen will too.

Jack and Libby are two high school students that we found to be incredibly vibrant. While they seem to have very little in common when we first meet them, it isn’t long until they begin to learn more about one another and find that they are more alike than they think.

What we really enjoyed about this relationship is that it didn’t feel forced. While horrendous circumstances may have led them to being thrown together, the way in which they share their vulnerabilities and help each other cope with inevitable high school drama felt really organic.

“Dear friend, You are not a freak. You are wanted. You are necessary. You are the only you there is. Don’t be afraid to leave the castle. It’s a great big world out there. Love, a fellow reader” 

5 stars alone goes to author Jennifer Niven’s stellar writing. Both characters take you on a soulful journey and Niven has taken great care to writing two young adults that embody both heart and grace.

The use of alternating POVs to tell this story was brilliantly executed and didn’t feel choppy or pretentious. Each chapter gives the reader better insight into each characters internal monologue while naturally progressing their personal relationships with friends, family and each other.


This is a great YA contemporary that looks at love, family, acceptance, bullying, friendships and everything in between. It is populated with great characters and enjoys a slightly more complex story line that is great for teens aged 15+.

Find more reviews to help you decide if it is appropriate for your teen on Goodreads.

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