Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven | Summary, Synopsis, Themes & Characters

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About the Book-Holding Up The Universe

Book TitleHolding Up The Universe
AuthorJennifer Niven
Publication DateOctober 4, 2016
GenreYoung Adult, Contemporary
PublisherKnopf Publishing Group
Main CharactersLibby Strout, Jack Masselin
SettingPresent-day United States
Awards– Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fiction (2016)
– ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults (2017)
– Barnes & Noble Best Young Adult Books of 2016
– YALSA Teens’ Top Ten (2017)

Holding Up The Universe Main Characters

The main characters in the book “Holding Up The Universe” are:

1. Libby Strout – A confident and resilient teenage girl who used to be America’s heaviest teen. She is determined to live her life to the fullest after years of being confined to her house.

2. Jack Masselin – A popular and charming high school student who suffers from prosopagnosia, a condition that makes it impossible for him to recognize faces. He hides his condition from others and struggles with maintaining relationships.

3. Caroline Strout – Libby’s mother, who is overprotective and struggles with anxiety. She is fiercely supportive of her daughter but also fears for her safety.

4. Dr. Wilson – The school psychologist who supports both Libby and Jack throughout their journey. She encourages them to confront their fears and embrace their true selves.

5. Mr. Levine – Jack’s father, a successful businessman who puts immense pressure on Jack to be perfect. He struggles to understand Jack’s condition and often dismisses his struggles.

6. Kendra Wu – Libby’s best friend and a fellow student at school. She is fiercely loyal and always stands up for Libby.

7. Dusty – Jack’s best friend and a member of his popular group. He tries to understand Jack’s condition and offers support, despite not fully grasping what he goes through.

8. Bailey – Libby’s love interest and a kind-hearted classmate who sees beyond her weight. They develop a sweet and genuine relationship.

9. Danielle – Jack’s girlfriend at the beginning of the story. Their relationship is strained due to Jack’s inability to recognize her face, leading to misunderstandings and conflicts.

10. Tori – A popular girl at school who initially mocks and bullies Libby but later shows a different side as the story progresses.

Holding Up The Universe Themes

Themes of “Holding Up The Universe” by Jennifer Niven are:

1. Identity and self-acceptance – The book explores the journey of the main characters as they navigate their identities, facing challenges and learning to accept themselves for who they are.

2. Bullying and its consequences – The theme of bullying is prominent in the book, shedding light on its emotional impact and long-lasting effects on both the victims and the bullies themselves.

3. Friendship and connection – The story emphasizes the importance of genuine connections and the power of friendship in providing support, understanding, and healing.

4. Overcoming stereotypes and prejudice – The novel challenges stereotypes and prejudices by showcasing characters who defy societal expectations and encourages readers to look beyond initial judgments.

5. Empathy and understanding – A significant theme is the cultivation of empathy and understanding towards others, promoting a more inclusive and compassionate society.

6. Second chances and personal growth – The narrative explores the concept of second chances, illustrating how individuals can learn, grow and redefine themselves despite past mistakes or difficult circumstances.

Holding Up The Universe Synopsis

“Holding Up The Universe” by Jennifer Niven is a captivating young adult book that explore the the lives of two seemingly different individuals, united by their inner struggles.

The story follows two teenagers, Libby Strout and Jack Masselin, who are both struggling with their own personal challenges.

Libby, once labeled as “America’s Fattest Teen” embarks on a journey of self-acceptance and embraces her unique qualities.

Jack, who suffers from a condition called prosopagnosia or face blindness, learns to navigate the world and forge meaningful connections.

As their paths intertwine, they discover that they can help each other heal and find strength in their shared vulnerabilities.

Holding Up The Universe Full Book Summary

In Jennifer Niven’s teenage romance Holding Up the Universe, Libby Strout & Jack Masselin relate parallel accounts about the problems kids encounter daily, especially if they have any distinguishing qualities. Libby makes her debut back in school after the trauma of her mother’s death and bullying at school, which caused her to gain excessive weight and necessitated her rescue from her home.

Jack tries to conceal the fact that he suffers from prosopagnosia, or face blindness, a disease that causes him to be unable to identify faces. He fears people will subject him to bullying and brutality if they discover his vulnerability. When Jack and Libby’s paths meet, they form a relationship that helps them forgive their own and others’ flaws more.

The stories of Libby and Jack follow the same timeframe, with Libby narrating the initial first-person part of the novel. Jack’s narrative begins at the end of Libby’s story. From there, they transmit the description back and forth.

Libby has returned to school for the first time since being rescued from her home. She has gone through treatment and counselling and has shed 302 pounds. She is determined to live her life to the fullest since she once believed she might not survive sufficient time to have a life. The fear of the unknown and the anxiety of dying abruptly still torment her. 

Libby encounters Iris Engelbrecht, a girl who is nearly as tall as she is, on her first day of school. Iris is sobbing because she has been the victim of a harsh game some lads played. Libby is furious and pursues Dave “Kam” Kaminski, the kid who made Iris weep. Libby catches Jack’s attention because, despite her weight, she is swift and elegant. He secretly wishes Libby would see Kam. Even though Kam is Jack’s best friend, Jack regards Kam’s actions as harsh.

When Kam declares that Libby is the “prize” (71) in the “Fat Girl Rodeo” (48), Jack chooses to halt the game. He takes Libby and holds her over lunch the next day. He stuffs a note he’d written to her into her backpack. Jack is startled as Libby pulls him off and strikes him in the face with enough force to crack his lip and knock him to the ground. The school sends both of them to the Conversation Circle for counselling.

Later on that day, Libby discovers Jack’s letter to her. He informs her that he suffers from prosopagnosia. Jack has just told her thus far. He tells her he didn’t mean to hurt her but wants to finish the game. Libby urges Jack to explore his disease and consider getting tested when they meet in person. Jack organizes an appointment with a researcher, during which he discovers that he suffers from acute face blindness. According to the study, Most likely, A fall from his house’s roof and hitting his head when he was six years old caused Jack’s illness.

At the same time, Jack and Libby have recognized they have feelings for one another. Jack brings Libby on a date to Clara’s Pizza King, a distinctive Richmond restaurant where he has fond memories. On the other hand, Libby believes he got her there to prevent others from recognizing them together in their hometown. Jack must be wondering whether it was his unintended purpose. When his friends start criticizing him for dating Libby, Jack tells her he can’t keep the relationship going.

Libby had been getting messages in her locker that said, “You aren’t wanted” (180) since the start of the year. She auditions for the Damsels, the school’s dance team, but they reject her request. Shortly after the tryouts, Libby receives another letter declaring, “We don’t want you.” (I warned you.)” (296). Libby responds by standing in the middle of the school corridor wearing a bright purple bikini with the words “I am wanted” (309) inscribed on her stomach. She distributes copies of a thesis she wrote in which Libby attacks the individual telling her Libby is unwanted since she has friends and relatives who do. Libby challenges individuals who have heard those comments not to believe them.

At an after-school party, Libby intervenes to break up a fight between Jack & Moses Hunt. Jack, who was inebriated, had unintentionally kissed another boy’s girlfriend, mistaking her for a girl he formerly dated. Libby drives Jack home and realizes that Jack lives down the street from the residence they had to tear open to save her. Jack informs her that he saw her rescue and does not believe it was a prank. He told her he had been cheering for her. Libby recognized the phrases from a letter she got while hospitalized. Even though Jack didn’t know her then, he wrote her a letter that motivated her. Jack informs his family about his facial blindness that night.

After that, Jack reflects on Libby & how badly he misses her companionship. He suddenly realizes that he recognizes Libby while he cannot recollect his thoughts of the other key individuals in his life. Jack informs her that she is the only one Jack can “see” (383). He tells her he sees her in this manner because he loves her. He feels at home as he kisses Libby and subsequently takes her hand in his.

Holding Up The Universe FAQs

What is the book Holding Up the Universe about?

“Holding Up the Universe” is a young adult book by Jennifer Niven, exploring the lives of two teenagers dealing with personal struggles and finding connection and understanding in each other.

Is Holding Up the Universe school appropriate?

Yes, “Holding Up the Universe” by Jennifer Niven is generally considered school appropriate.

Is Holding Up the Universe a love story?

Yes, “Holding Up the Universe” by Jennifer Niven is primarily a love story, exploring the relationship between the two main characters.

Is love hypothesis a lgbtq book?

No, the term “Love Hypothesis” does not refer to a specific book related to LGBTQ+ themes.

Does Holding Up the Universe have a sad ending?

No, Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven does not have a sad ending. It concludes on a hopeful and uplifting note.

What is the mental illness in Holding Up the Universe?

The mental illness in Holding Up the Universe are: prosopagnosia (face blindness) and anxiety disorders.

About the Author-Jennifer Niven

holding up the universe summary
Full NameJennifer Niven
Date of BirthJanuary 8, 1968
Place of BirthCharlotte, North Carolina, USA
GenreYoung Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Notable Works-All the Bright Places (2015)
-Holding Up the Universe (2016)
-Velva Jean Learns to Fly (2009)
-Breathless (2020)
Education-Bachelor of Arts in English and French
-University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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