Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

My first thought when picking up this book was, “I don’t want to read about another sugar coated book about loving the skin you’re in.” I have been blessed with a fast metabolism, and thus, have never gone past size 2 in clothing. Before reading Holding Up the Universe, I hadn’t really given thought to the enormous amount of unwarranted, unnecessary, and unhelpful comments that are directed to those that weigh a little more than what we define as average. I come from a place of privilege when talking about body issues, but it is undeniable that Holding Up the Universe has changed the way I will think and talk about my body and others’.

Holding Up the Universe follows Libby Strout, formerly know as “America’s Fattest Teen.” She left school in fifth grade, but has decided to go back to her local high school for her junior year. She is perfectly secure with her weight, but, upon returning to school, realizes others are not. And after a cruel joke is played on her, she is thrust into the high school spotlight.

“What is this whole ‘fat girl equals whore’ bullshit?… Why am I automatically a whore? How do that even make sense?”

Despite my initial reaction, I was excited to read Jennifer Niven’s latest novel. Her debut, All the Bright Places, fell short in terms of plot but was absolutely extraordinary when it came to characters and message. Unfortunately, Holding Up the Universe fell into the same trap. Libby’s romantic story arc felt forced and more like a tool for furthering the plot than a natural next movement. The more natural plot progressions came when Libby was dealing with grief over her mother’s death and auditioning for a dance team she had idolized for years.

While Holding Up the Universe suffers tremendously when it comes to plot, it still has a message important for every girl. The body positivity and self love Niven writes about never feels preachy, but always get the point across. Hopefully in her next novel, Niven will continue her superb writing and drop the superfluous romance.

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