Sunday, 16 September 2018

Book Review: Holding Up the Universe

As anyone who has read my blog before will know; I do love Young Adult fiction and so after seeing this one hyped over on bookstagram pages I decided to give it a go .Focussing on two teenagers, Jack and Libby, the story develops as Libby head back into mainstream High School after taking two years out. Once known as America's Fattest Teen, as much as she has lost copious amounts of weight, unfortunately she's still a lot bigger than many of her classmates and so the teasing and name calling doesn't come as a surprise to her, sadly. Thanks to some rather unfortunate peer pressure, Jack gets involved in a nasty fat shaming prank that results in Libby sticking up for herself. In an attempt to not be called a coward by his friends, he ultimately becomes a coward in the eyes of the viewer and of Libby. Both he and Libby find themselves in group counselling together, alongside community service which neither are particularly happy about.

As the novel progresses, you do see their relationship begin to blossom; I liked how there was an initial connection between them that Libby wasn't aware of. It does make you appreciate his character a lot more, as to begin with I wasn't keen on him at all. That being said, there was nothing about this book that massively stood out for me; both Libby and Jack were defined by their conditions, Libby with her weight and Jack with his inability to recognise faces and they never seemed to develop much beyond that, which was a shame as they both had more potential. Of the two, Libby was more relatable due to her insecurities about her weight and looks in general, but at the same time she also seemed a little too confident at times for someone in her situation. Jack came across as a bit of an airhead, a stereotypical popular boy and I didn't feel any warmth for their growing relationship as it seemed quite forced as well as unbelievable at times. It sounds harsh but the whole two broken people falling in love felt a little overdone in this novel, which was disappointing as after reading All The Bright Places by the same author, I was expecting better execution.

Overall, I wasn't enamored with this book. The pace felt very slow, the characters not massively developed and the plot rather ill thought out. It was pretty offensive in terms of content, although the portrayal of Libby was a lot better than I expected, I wanted her to be more than just body image, teenage angst and aggression. This book isn't amazing, it's not the worst book that I've read but it's not the best, either. Niven's writing style is unique and that is what saved this for me; I do genuinely enjoy her style and the way that her text flows from page to page and chapter to chapter. However I do wish that her characters were less one dimensional as having read two of her books now I do feel like there is a formula to her work and that is disappointing. I want to see characters grow and develop, to become more than you expect and that just didn't happen. Jack was particularly uninteresting and selfish, I preferred his little brother which says it all when he's supposed to be a key figure. Based purely on the writing style, I rate this book 3 stars but it isn't one that I'd recommend. As I've said, I'm disappointed.

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