Sunday, January 15, 2017

Holding up the universe by Jennifer Niven- 4.5 stars

Holding up the universe is about two teenage kids. A girl, Libby, who was once know as "American Fattest Teen" and is now trying to go back to school and once again have a 'normal' life. And a boy, Jack, who suffers from a disease that does not let his brain recognize faces, even his family are strangers to him.

"Dear friend, 
You are not a freak. You are wanted. You are necessary. You are the only one there is. Don't be afraid to leave the castle. It's a great big world out there. 
Love, a fellow reader"- Jennifer Niver

I had another reader (whose opinions I trust) give me some very harsh reviews on this book. She/he believes the book is offensive and criticized the author for not understanding 'fatness'. For body shamming and a lack of sensitivity. The author has also been criticized for mishandling a character with cognitive disorder.The list of horrible things this reader and many others (just have a 5 min look through GoodReads) is huge.
I decided not to buy the book.
Two weeks later a good friend read the book and told me she loved it! We don't always agree on books, but she rarely tells me a book is good if she doesn't know I will like it too.
So I bought the book! 😃
I am so very glad I did.

In no way is the author being offensive towards obese people. That is just ridiculous! And don't even dare saying I don't know what I am talking about, sorry to brake this to you, but I've been just that for many many years now.
The way she portrays Libby is just the way that particular character feels, Are there overweight people that don't feel like that?! Sure thing, I don't!
But there are those who do. More importantly, it is a FICTIONAL character, and it seems to me, many who read the book forgot that tiny detail.
I for one appreciate her take on Libby. Bullying like that does happen. Teen and even adults do feel that insecure. And teen girls do often feel the need to be wanted (specially by a boy). I very much like that Jennifer Niven did not shy away from those things.
And I love the underlying message: be yourself! Be tolerable and don't follow the crowd.

We readers ask for complex characters and that is exactly what Jennifer Niven gave us. Have you read another book with characters quite like it? I have not.
At the same time, the book is simply another feel good high school romance story. The 'feels' will be many. The 'mooshy gooshy' moments more than you can count!
Had the characters been ordinary-everyday-nothing special about you- teens this would have been just another cheesy romantic story. The characters backgrounds and complexity help make it special.

Libby is happy, loves dancing, is full of life and is darn strong. She refuses to let the outside world define her. Its empowering and I wish more of us were like her. She is an easy to love character.
Jack, oh Jack... he is such an easy character to love too. I felt bad for him through out the book. Him and his big afro hair are just adorable! I love his personality. He is funny, charming and cool. But its his willingness to do whats right (and messing up most of the time) and the way he admits when he is being an ass that captivates.
Ok, I will give it to you critics of the book that his illness is not treated in a very realistic way. How on earth would you hide from your parents you don't always recognize them all your life? But its a fiction book guys, it never would be perfect!

All in all, I thought it was a near perfect book. It took me a while to get 'into' the book to start. The pace and the jumping back and from Libby-Jack took me a while to get use to. Had it not been for that I would easily and happily have given a 5.

Go Read!



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