Many might disagree, but I believe that All the Bright Places was a remarkable debut by Jennifer Niven. It was a perfect book for the readers who liked The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park. I was eager as well as curious to read Holding Up the Universe especially after the hullabaloo created by the blurb. Several people were downright offended by it, but I was more interested in reading the actual book before coming to any conclusion.
The plot is thin.
Libby Strout is ‘America’s Fattest Teen’, but there is so much more to her than her weight. Ever since her mother expired, she has been collected pieces of her and dealing with her grief.
On the other hand, we have Jack Masselin. While everybody thinks he is a cool guy, he is silently suffering from prosopagnosia. He can’t recognize faces; even the faces of his brothers and parents. However, he has kept it a secret so far and has mastered the art of fitting in.
Their lives get tangled together through a cruel high school game that lands them both in a group counseling. Do I need to spoil it for you what happens next?
The narration is sluggish.
As you have already read the plot of Holding Up the Universe, you can imagine how thin content she had in the name of plot. What was needed to handle the state of affairs was a solid narrative. However, she fails to intrigue a reader. The characters appear to be one-dimensional and there is only a little offered on plate for us to form an emotional connection. The differences in the two leads defines them and their relationship. There are no shades to the characters and they act to serve for the ultimate purpose or climax.
The bad part is that even the pacing of Holding Up the Universe is poor. There are several chunks that could have been eliminated to at least offer a decent pace to the already-read-million-times-before plot.
What’s the worth of the characters?
For some reason, I am unsure why two such big concerns or ailments are stooped down to justify only the relationship of Jack and Libby. I don’t even know what purpose did Jack’s ex stripping down for him to make love with him serve. Why doesn’t the plot rather deal with the grief of Libby and how she overcomes it or how Jack helps her overcome that?
I strictly believe that Holding Up the Universe is undercooked. Even with the lack of an out-of-the box story, the book would have survived if Niven had given more attention to her characters rather than reaching the happily-ever-after conclusion somehow.
I’m extremely disappointed.
When I had finished reading All the Bright Places, I thought I can add another author to my favorite list, but Holding Up the Universe has made me unsure. I believe Niven has a good potential and despite of the fact that I did not like this book, I am sure she can do something much better in her next.
Some quotes from Holding Up the Universe
This is what I know about loss:
– It doesn’t get better. You just get (somewhat) used to it.
– You never stop missing the people who go away.
– For something that isn’t there anymore, it weighs a ton.
We’re all weird and damaged in our own way. You’re not the only one.
It’s my experience that the people who are most afraid are the ones who hide behind mean and threatening words.
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