New young adult book by Niven disappoints

Holding Up the Universe is the newest book from Jennifer Niven, who wrote bestseller All the Bright Places. I really loved All the Bright Places; it would honestly be on my top 10 favorite books ever. This was not the case for Holding Up the Universe.

I was really disappointed with this book. I was reading it with high expectations because Niven’s previous book was amazing, but even if it were her first book, I still couldn’t see myself liking it.

Right off the bat, I was not really into the book jacket summary. It describes the book as an unexpected romance between Libby Strout (conveniently named for her last name to rhyme with stout), an overweight social outcast who is specifically described as “The Fattest Girl in America,” and Jack Masselin, the resident bad boy of the high school who secretly has a rare disease and acts like a jerk because he doesn’t want anyone to notice. The summary made the plot sound really cliché and overdone. However, I gave it the benefit of the doubt and decided to read the book anyway.

The characters were simply annoying. They were undeveloped, and both of them were just as immature at the end of the book as they were in the beginning of the book. I think that Niven tried to write Libby as strong and independent, but in the book she is blind to her own problems, obsesses over what people think about her, and is stubborn to a fault. This would all be fine if she grew more mature in the end, but she doesn’t. Jack has prognosia, which means he can’t recognize people by their faces. In order to not let anyone know, he acts closed-off and doesn’t care if he destroys relationships. All in all, the characters aren’t relatable or likeable.

The romance storyline was also ridiculous. They discover their feelings for each other way too early in the book. Jack pranks Libby within the first week of school, then supposedly falls in love with her during the cheesy “Conversation Circles” (where they share their feelings about high school drama) they have together, even though they’ve known each other for a month. It’s just not realistic.

These are the main problems in the book, and overall, this book was not good. I would strongly suggest finding another young adult novel to read.