Holding up the Universe
by: Jennifer Niven
Reviewed by Eden
“People are shitty for a lot of reasons. Sometimes they’re just shitty people. Sometimes people have been shitty to them and, even though they don’t realize it, they take that shitty upbringing and go out into the world and treat others the same way. Sometimes they’re shitty because they’re afraid. Sometimes they choose to be shitty to others before others can be shitty to them. So it’s like self-defensive shittiness.” ― Jack Masselin
The second installation to Jennifer Niven’s young adult read, All the Bright Places is another refreshing story that went out this year called Holding up the Universe. No, it’s not part two of Finch and Violet’s story. At first glance it could be about a girl hypothetically a fat turtle, which needs a bigger and wider shell to support her weight and about a boy hypothetically is a brain-damaged lion, which needs identifiers to be able to recognize familiar faces. As to why I chose a turtle and lion, your guess is as good as mine. Reading through the story, it could also be about surviving the unforgiving circumstances that happen when you are a high school student, how to fight your battles within the scary hallways pack with people who pretend to know you and how to just live life after a great deal of humiliations. I realized that as the story teaches us a thing or two hundred things about almost everything, it still identifies this young love between two unlikely people who decides to come out of their shells and claim their place in the world. So, it could be about two turtles after all.
The story centers to Libby Strout and Jack Masselin. Libby used to weigh over 600 pounds but has now lost almost half of it after a couple of years of proper counseling and medication. Still she stood out to be the heaviest girl in school. This makes her a jerk magnet; she seems to always attract insults from bad people and from people who are just influenced to be bad by others. But she is the kind of person who is brave and just naturally kind. She is a really good dancer too.
Jack on the other hand, is the cool guy in every high school. He is the one who dates the prettiest girl. He is the one with the cool hair. You could say that he’s got everything any person would want to not be the sole target of pranks in high school. The thing is he can’t remember faces. He looks at his mom, dad or brothers and sees complete strangers. He has a whole manual structured in his brain that contains all the identifiers for each people he knows, replacing the part of the brain that evidently sucks in recognizing faces.
Their paths crossed when Jack’s best friend dared him to play Rodeo Fat Girl, which involves grabbing some fat girl and holding onto her as long as you can. Because of Jack’s face blindness, he rides along to whatever the situation brings him. He dates a girl he doesn’t even like just to feel safe. That’s when he grabs Libby and I have a feeling that in some way, Libby was able to grab Jack too. Oh, yes she punched Jack afterwards.
My favorite character in the story is Jack’s youngest brother, Dusty. He is the one who keeps Jack from falling apart; being the hypothetically gay kid, he gets bullied for carrying a purse. He makes sure his brother doesn’t do the same to other kids. He is a charming little boy and if this becomes a movie, Jacob Tremblay will be a good choice to play Dusty. Then Chloe Grace Moretz will play Libby and Freddie Highmore is going to be Jack. I can imagine Freddie with a wild afro now. LOL.
Even though I’m not anything close to being fat; I’m actually a very skinny girl, I can attest to the difficulty of being in high school. It’s a jungle out there; a whole Kingdom Animalia with unidentified species gathered together. Cliques are formed to the benefit of peaceful segregation in the cafeteria. It’s really funny; the idea of grouping and regrouping based on looks, interests, and popularity, but it has always been the unbreakable system of sticking to the status quo and has somehow become unbreakable because it is still invisible to eyes of most educators. It is awesome to have your own group of friends, someone you can hang out with after class, and someone you can chat with if you don’t like the subject (hahaha). But it should never feel as if you’re being pressured to choose friends or to be chosen as a friend. Otherwise, you are putting yourself in a situation where you get to know limited people personally. Eventually, you may get the impression of not feeling wanted and may give everyone the impression that they are not wanted too; the vibe you give, the vibe you get. So imagine what Libby has to go through. She tries to have a low-profile even if it’s already twice as hard because of her weight, until Jack brings all this unwanted attention to her by taking her as the bait for this stupid game.
I will have to give the book a three out of five stars and a seven out of ten rating not because I am saving my perfect score for the best book (which probably I am), but because I feel that a character like Jack Masselin is too good to be true. He is so kind; the kind of kind that is so real that you can feel it right away and the type of kind that makes you fall in love with him again and again. I hate it. There are a lot of Jack and Libby moments that I dread because it made me wish I am Libby. HAHAHA. My favorite part of the book is when Libby takes a stand for herself and parades the hallways in her purple bikini to show everyone the coward they all are and my least favorite part is when Libby makes out with one student on a house party. I’m all about loyalty here.
Will I recommend that book? Yessssss! I would recommend the book to anybody who needs a break from peer pressure, from crowd control, and societal norms. This book will solidly give your dampen spirits some light and like how Jack sees Libby, you’ll see this as a work of sunshine. I can’t say that every young adult reader will love the story. Maybe because it is written in a simple way to highlight more Libby and Jack’s complicated situations. If you’re a hard to please reader and are waiting for something amazing to happen, you will get it. It will get to you sweet and slow.