Despite what the book’s description says, I don’t see Holding Up the Universe as a romance novel. This is solely a coming-of-age novel in my opinion (more for Jack than for Libby since Libby seemed pretty badass and confident from the very beginning). Both characters had issues they had to come to accept, and along the way, they somehow came to like each other. But… why? I never felt that these two had to fall in love. I liked them as unexpected friends who came to realize that they both had their own insecurities, but I couldn’t see them as a couple, especially as we got further into the story.
I could’ve dealt with that if author Jennifer Niven hadn’t pushed the romance on us so hard. I knew she wanted me to feel their love — and believe me, I tried — but it just came off as forced and slightly cringe-worthy. That didn’t necessarily offend me or anger me; it just frustrated me every now and then. What did anger me was how infuriating some of the side characters were. There were some awful people in this book, and they did feel a little over the top at certain points. I honestly felt bad for Jack and Libby for having to go to that school. Almost all the kids were complete assholes, save for a few good friends. On the bright side, because I hated almost every other character, it made Jack and Libby pretty easy to root for. I think Niven gave her two main characters very unique, lively voices, which were only improved upon by the Audible narrators.
This is a good book. But it’s not the great book I was hoping for. I’ve yet to read Niven’s first YA novel All the Bright Places, but I bought the book a long time ago and left it on my bookshelf at my parents’ house. I may not have loved Holding Up the Universe, but it at least intrigued me enough to want to pick up All the Bright Places the next time I visit home.
My Personal Rating: ★★★☆☆
My Objective Rating: ★★★☆☆