Holding Up the Universe
by Jennifer Niven

Overview - A New York Times Bestseller

From the author of the New York Times bestseller All the Bright Places comes a heart-wrenching story about what it means to see someone--and love someone--for who they truly are.  Read more...

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More About Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
A New York Times Bestseller

From the author of the New York Times bestseller All the Bright Places comes a heart-wrenching story about what it means to see someone--and love someone--for who they truly are.

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 in new and bad-ass ways, 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.

Jennifer Niven delivers another poignant, exhilarating love story about finding that person who sees you for who you are--and seeing them right back.

"Niven is adept at creating characters. . . . Libby's] courage and body-positivity make for a joyful reading experience." --The New York Times

"Holding Up the Universe . . . taps into the universal need to be understood. To be wanted. And that's what makes it such a remarkable read.", "Why New Book Holding Up the Universe Is the Next The Fault in Our Stars"

"Want a love story that will give you all the feels? . . . You'll seriously melt " --Seventeen Magazine

  • ISBN-13: 9780385755924
  • ISBN-10: 0385755929
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
  • Publish Date: October 2016
  • Page Count: 400
  • Reading Level: Ages 14-UP
  • Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Young Adult Fiction > Social Themes - Depression
Books > Young Adult Fiction > Romance - Contemporary
Books > Young Adult Fiction > Social Themes - Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2016-08-01
  • Reviewer: Staff

At first glance, the premise of Niven’s second YA novel, after All the Bright Places, seems dark and improbable: high school junior Libby Strout was once so heavy that she had to be rescued from her house by a crane, senior Jack Masselin has prosopagnosia (face blindness), and they meet when Jack—whose friends, girlfriend, and huge Afro are designed to protect the cool-guy persona he uses to disguise his condition—goes along with the horrible game of “Fat Girl Rodeo.” Libby’s size and backstory make her a target, but she can dance again, and she’s smart, brave, bitingly funny, and no one’s victim (as Jack finds out when she slugs him). Meanwhile, Jack is isolated, angry, and guilty about the compromises he has made. As the semester progresses, they suffer through detention and counseling, Libby makes friends and contends with bullying, Jack opens up to her about his face blindness, and they move—carefully—into romantic territory. Niven makes the novel’s improbable setup work, avoiding the suggestion that happiness lies in thinness as she creates two indelible characters and a heart-stopping romance. Ages 14–up. Agent: Kerry Sparks, Levine Greenberg Rostan (Oct.)

BookPage Reviews

Dealing with conflicting feelings and identities

Libby Strout is no longer “America’s fattest teen,” but her biggest fear in returning to school for the first time since fifth grade is that her classmates won’t look past her weight. Nonetheless, she’s ready to leave the house where she’s been grieving her mother’s death, and embrace everything high school has to offer. Meanwhile, Jack Masselin’s devil-may-care attitude may seem effortless, but nobody knows how hard he has to work, because nobody knows about his face blindness—how, even among his closest friends, he feels as though he’s surrounded by strangers. That is, until a vicious prank lands Jack and Libby in the same counseling group, and they’re forced to see beyond each other’s masks.

Jennifer Niven’s Holding Up the Universe is another bright place for fans of her bestselling YA debut, All the Bright Places. Niven once again introduces two protagonists who, at first glance, have little reason to cross paths, but who are uniquely positioned to help each other repair their broken pieces. These characters may be facing extreme circumstances, but their conflicting emotions will be utterly relatable to teen readers. 

Niven treats her protagonists with admirable respect, tackling the issues that seem so big in high school with prose that dances on the line between seriousness and whimsy. Holding Up the Universe is a perfect fall read to inspire readers to embrace the new school year.


This article was originally published in the October 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews