Posted in contemporary, review, romance, young adult

Holding Up The Universe – Jennifer Niven

“Too many people in this world think small is the best they can do. Not you, Libby Strout. You weren’t born for small.”

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Blurb: “Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love and for every possibly life has to offer. ‘I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.’”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I first heard about this book when the negativity surrounding the Goodreads description first emerged. It’s safe to say that maybe it wasn’t the best synopsis to put forward for the book and a lot of people were angry. It eventually led to Jennifer Niven addressing the issue and expressing that the topics tackled within the book are close to her heart and that she did not write the Goodreads synopsis. Shortly after it was changed but still wasn’t much better.

Like many others, I was put off by it based on what I saw on Goodreads. However, when I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of her new book, I took it. I expected to hold the same feelings I had prior to reading it while doing just that. I was wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The story follows two characters (switching through their perspectives throughout) Libby and Jack. After the death of her mother, Libby found comfort in food which lead to an event that was widely reported, earning her the title “America’s fattest teen.” She has since shed some of the weight and is returning to school. Jack’s dad is having an affair and on top of that, Jack is convinced that he has a condition called “prosopagnosia” which is the inability to recognise faces. (Imagine not being able to recognise your own family) Through a series of events, Libby and Jack are brought together in an unexpected way.

I know what you’re thinking: story about a fat girl who happens to become friends with someone who can’t recognise faces? Pretty convenient right? I thought the same. However, these aspects are something that’s more so dealt with separately minus a few things that lead to their eventual friendship. Also, through reading the acknowledgements, Jennifer Niven details her experiences of anxiety and weight issues and how she actually has a family member with prosopagnosia so she had a lot of access to information (and she did extra research too) that would help make the representation of the condition accurate in her story.

Libby was incredibly well written and I felt like she was someone I would be friends with. I was there with her every single word of the way through this story and I yearned to read more once I’d finished the book. Jack on the other hand was lacking. I found myself wondering when I’d get back to Libby’s narratives while reading his ones. It would be really difficult to do this story without him but I just didn’t connect to his character in the same way.

Whatever preconceptions you may have about this book (All The Bright Places is very marmite in terms of reviews), please at least give this story a try.

I only wish I could read more of Libby’s story.

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Posted in review, romance, young adult

All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

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Blurb: “Theodore Finch wants to take his own life. Violet Markey is devastated by her sister’s death. They meet on the ledge of the school bell tower, and so their story begins. It’s only together they can be themselves… But, as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to Shrink. How far will Violet go to save the boy she has come to love?”

At the start of the year I read a list of the upcoming Young Adult books in January – March. My eyes instantly fell on All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven and I made a mental note to buy it the second I found it in my local bookstore. Sadly it spent a good month on a shelf whispering “read me” until my beloved book jar decided that I was ready to pursue this adventure.

Before I delve into this review I have to give a content warning.
As you’ve guessed from the blurb, this book contains adult themes and so may be unsuitable for those at the younger end of the YA age bracket. Also, suicide plays  big role in this book so if you’re easily triggered by that topic, be careful. (It’s not my place to tell you what to and what not to read. You have that freedom.)

The story follows teenagers Theodore Finch and Violet Markey who meet on the ledge of their school’s bell tower, both attempting to end their lives. In a twist, Finch manages to convince Violet to step away from the edge but when rumours spread around the school, Violet is seen as the hero who saved Finch; not the other way around. Violet and Finch are the typical type of characters you would expect in a YA contemporary: Violet is the popular one and Finch is the badass everyone hates. What made this book stand out for me despite this, was the fact it was told from both Violet and Finch’s perspective. This was really refreshing as it allowed me to get inside the heads of both characters and learn what problems they face. In this case, Finch has attempted to take his life before and still thinks about it every day, even keeping a journal listing ways to commit suicide and how successful they have been (hence the trigger warning). While Violet, is plagued by the death of her sister caused by a car accident in which Violet was the driver. The topic of death was handled very delicately and didn’t feel like it was stereotyped.

Finch and Violet are paired together on a Geography project about discovering new places. Finch recommends they discover places around Indiana and if they take something from that place, they leave something behind as a memory of themselves. Thus the story begins.

The concept of wandering really changed my outlook on life. The idea of going out and leaving your mark in places, even if they were only small, was a fundamental part of this book as it also showcased the growing friendship between the two characters.

At first I was unsure about Finch. He felt like too much of a cliche for me but as I continued reading I actually started really liking him. The characters were fleshed out so well that I could relate to them and I felt like they were real. I cared deeply what happened to both of them. (Warning: this book is a tearjerker)

I spent most of this reading experience wanting to give Violet a hug. She was just a wonderful character and if any fictional person could be my friend, I would want it to be Violet Markey.

I cannot give this book justice. I can’t describe exactly what I felt when reading this book but it was a unique feeling.

Also another thing I loved about this book was the addition of helpline numbers listed in the back for anyone going through similar situations to the characters.

I recommend that everyone pick up this book and give it a read.
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