A couple months ago, I tried to read All The Bright Places which is written by Niven as well. However, as beautiful and as touching as the book is, I couldn’t get through the whole thing after finding out how it ended, because I have personal issues with the subject matter that the book covers. As a result, I ended up only reading chunks of the story. So recently, I decided to try out Holding Up The Universe and found that I enjoyed it a lot.
I’ve said this many times, but I’ll say it again – if a book has strong characterization all around, it’ll be an enjoyable read regardless of the plot. That being said, I really liked both Jack and Libby as main characters, especially since Holding Up The Universe is pretty much a character-driven book. Throughout the story, we were treated to intimate close-ups of their struggles – Jack with his face-blindness and Libby with her weight – and how they learned how to deal with their insecurities over the course of the story despite bullying and teasing from their immature or sadistic peers. They were both relatable and had their own unique voice, as well as fulfilling, poignant arcs and backgrounds of their own. (Side note: I also found it pretty interesting and painfully realistic that Libby wasn’t accepted into the Damsels despite her trying her best. Despite that, she still managed to succeed in other ways in her life, which was really uplifting to read.) Additionally, I loved watching Jack and Libby’s relationship develop from a tense, reluctant connection to a strong, devoted bond as they gradually built each other up and fell in love. I also liked how they eventually found out how their pasts were semi-intertwined as well because I was worried that Jack would never tell Libby about how he had always been rooting for her. The other characters in the book were also well-rounded and helped flesh out the story, instead of just being sided characters placed in the book for the mere purpose of moving the narrative along.
Overall, I really enjoyed this character-driven book, and I must say that it really wasn’t like anything that I was expecting when I read its synopsis on GoodReads. I was expecting Jack and Libby to be mopey, bitter teens who would be hard to sympathize with. Instead, I ended up reading a compelling story where I quickly found myself rooting for the protagonists. With that, I give this book a 4.8 / 5.