Holding Up The Universe

Holding Up The Universe
Written by Jennifer Niven
Contemporary, Social Issues
Expected Publication October 4th 2016
368 Pages
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 see who she really is. Since her mum'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 possibility life has to offer.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin too. Yes, he's got swagger, but he's also mastered the art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a secret. He can't recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He's the guy who can reengineer and rebuild anything, but he can't understand what's going on with the inner workings of his own brain. So he tells himself to play it cool. Be charming. Be hilarious. Don't get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game which lands them in group counseling, Libby and Jack are both angry, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.
Tomorrow is Libby Strout's first day of school since the fifth grade and she plans on dancing her way into the new life she desperately deserves. Once labelled as America's Fattest Teen, Libby has spent the last three years surviving after needing to be rescued from her home, filmed as a spectacle for the American public. After her mother passed away suddenly, Libby turned to eating to fill the gnawing loss in her life. Libby is determined to live her life beyond her bedroom walls and after choosing to take control of her health, will make the most of her opportunity at Martin Van Buren High School.

Jack Masselin is the handsome, popular ladies man. He's currently single but will no doubt rekindle his treacherous relationship with the fickle Caroline, because that's what is expected of him. But living his life as a stereotype is taking it's toll on Jack. He has undiagnosed Prosopagnosia, a cognitive disorder of face perception where he lacks the ability to recognise familiar faces. In a school bountiful in stereotypes, Jack uses physical Identifiers to recognise those around him, including new girl Libby.

A cruel game of Fat Girl Rodeo will bring both Jack and Libby together in more ways than one. Both Jack and Libby will begin to understand the anguish of being an outcast, something neither need to go through alone.

My Thoughts

Holding Up The Universe was a candid and often confronting storyline of those who have been labelled and ostracised from their peers. It was beautifully written with compassion and conviction for those who aren't what society accepts as perfect, rather than to celebrate our differences.

Libby isn't an overweight girl, she's larger than life. A girl whose health had declined after the death of her mother at the tender age of eleven. She lived a meagre existence by being restricted to the confines of her bedroom, home schooled due to her weight gain and relying on imaginary friendships with the neighbourhood children. Until a health scare sees Libby labelled as America's Fattest Teen and made into a spectacle. Now three years later, Libby has taken control of her health and is determined to enjoy the adolescent experience. Attending school. Meeting new friends. Even falling in love.

Libby Strout is a force to be reckoned with. She's still considered overweight by her peers but she's healthy, she's happy and taken control of her life again. Most importantly, Libby won't allow others to diminish her self confidence, especially not Jack.

Jack is living the ultimate adolescent experience. Although popular and attractive, Jack's life is a facade. Behind the charismatic personality lies a condition in which Jack has self diagnosed a cognitive disorder, where he lacks the ability to recognise familiar faces. Prosopagnosia is a debilitating condition, where sufferers use Identifiers to recognise family and friends such as sounds, physical cues and body shape. So naturally he identifies Libby as the large girl.

Jack can see Libby. He can see her impeccably long eyelashes, her warm, welcoming smile and soon he begins to see Libby beyond her weight. Although I enjoyed the tentative friendship Jack and Libby shared, I was conflicted when it came to the degrading incident that had brought the two together. Jack appeared to be little more than a coward who gave into the cruel game to protect his own reputation. There is absolutely no excuse for cruelty towards others or degradation and I can't imagine that in a non fictional circumstance, the lovely Libby would have been so forgiving.

Most readers will struggle with Jack's character, which I assume is exactly as intended. Jack represents teen pressure and the need to be accepted by our peers. He isn't a malicious person but may be painted as the villain especially for those who have faced the same torment, projecting their own teen oppressors onto that of Jack. Even as an adult, most women still suffer from insecurities and we carry the scars of our teen years that weren't particularly kind. But Jack's character seeks redemption, not willing to excuse his behaviour on his condition but to seek an understanding and acceptance of our differences. Jack isn't perfect and I applaud Jennifer Niven for creating a flawed character among young adult literature which tends to focus on the pursuit of perfection.

Libby is magnificent. I loved her character fiercely for her tenacity and moxie, for her dancing without abandon and her ability to stand up for the injustice in our world, although she's defiant not to become a poster child for fat girls. Although Libby was vulnerable to ridicule, her confidence was inspiring and may empower teens and promote greater self confidence despite our inhibitions and critical natures.

Jennifer Niven is a wonderfully accomplished author, able to invoke emotional responses in readers through realistically flawed characters. Although subjective, Libby's story is not uncommon sadly. Society places a great emphasis on the female body image and often we ourselves are our greatest critics and tend to equate happiness within ourselves with how we are perceived by others.
Life is too short to judge others. It is not our job to tell someone what they feel or who they are. Why not spend some time on yourself instead?
No truer words have been spoken.

The #LoveOzYA Hippity Hop

I love Australian young adult fiction. I love that it's relevant, it's realistic and Australian authors write with confidence and conviction. We're not afraid of an invasion because John Marsden taught us how to survive, Melina Marchetta welcomed us into her loud and loving Italian Australian family and Bryce Courtney showed us that there's a little bit of Peekay in us all.

But in the last few years, a new breed of Aussie young adult author has emerged. The author who empowers women, the author who is environmentally conscious and the author who isn't afraid to call us out on social injustice. Aussie young adult authors are no bullshit, kick ass advocates for what makes Australia unique. Our people.

Favourite Aussie YA authors

Spark Series
My Review
The Every Series
My Review
One Would Think The Deep
My Review

The Aussie YA book you grew up with

The Tomorrow Series
My Review
My Review
Looking For Alibrandi
My Review

Favourite Aussie YA book released in 2016

My Review

My Review
Breathing Under Water
My Review

Aussie YA Debut you are looking forward to

Add to Goodreads
Our Chemical Hearts
Add to Goodreads
The Book of Whispers
Add to Goodreads

Favourite Aussie YA series

Chasing The Valley
My Review

My Review

My Review

Unexpected Aussie YA surprise

My Review
My Review
My Review

Aussie YA Book you always recommend to others

Summer Skin
My Review
My Review
Burn Bright
My Review

An Aussie YA book on your TBR

Add to Goodreads
A Corner Of White
Add to Goodreads
Finnikin of the Rock
Add to Goodreads

Join the blog hop

Thanks to our hosts the #AusYABloggers and Jeann, Emily, Genie, Joy and Aimee.
Join our Twitter chat on Sunday 14th August at 6:00pm using the hashtag #AusYABlogChat.
Check out Happy Indulgence to follow the blog hop.

Need more #LoveOzYA recommendations?

Check out my Instagram account at Diva Booknerd

Breathing Under Water

Breathing Under Water
Written by Sophie Hardcastle
Conteporary, Coming of Age, #LoveOzYA
Published July 12th 2016
320 Pages
Thanks to Hachette Australia
Add to Goodreads
Nineteen minutes and eleven seconds separated us at birth. On the official documentation, he is older... Although it really has nothing to do with age. What it really means is that I am, and have always been, second.

Ben and Grace Walker are twins. Growing up in a sleepy coastal town it was inevitable they'd surf. Always close, they hung out more than most brothers and sisters, surfing together for hours as the sun melted into the sea. At seventeen, Ben is a rising surf star, the golden son and the boy all the girls fall in love with. Beside him, Grace feels like she is a mere reflection of his light. In their last year of school, the world beckons, full of possibility. For Grace, finishing exams and kissing Harley Matthews is just the beginning.

Then, one day, the unthinkable. The sun sets at noon and suddenly everything that was safe and predictable is lost. And everything unravels.
For Ben and Grace, the water has always been their first love and secondly, the bond the twins share with one another. Both born to the waves in the sleepy seaside town, it's Ben who shines brightly with Grace basking in the sunshine of her brother's achievements, a free spirit who is upheld by the community, his peers and Grace and Ben's parents.

Until her world falls apart.

Grace finds herself in a downward spiral of alcohol and drug abuse, numbing the darkness that threatens to overwhelm her now meager existence. The waves no longer call to her, the sunshine no longer warms her skin and for Grace Walker, it's easier to sink than swim.

My Thoughts

Breathing Under Water was immaculate. An emotional journey of teen grief, familial despair and those left behind. Grace has always lived within twin Ben's shadow, content in the role of Ben's sister, while Ben is on the verge of a professional surfing career. Ben and Grace share a tender and loving sibling connection and although Ben is popular and free spirited, he ensures Grace is never left behind. But the time has come for Grace to forge her own path into the world and when Harley Matthews returns to town, this may be the opportunity Grace needs to begin her life in the sunshine, rather than being protected by Ben's shadow.

But before Grace's life can begin, tragedy strikes and threatens to tear her family apart.

The aftermath of bereavement and loss is always confronting, especially within young adult reads as characters are often still forging their own paths in life. My heart ached for the Walker family. While Grace's mother becomes a shadow of her former self, her father throws himself into his work to avoid spending time with his family. Harley begins to isolate himself from Grace, leaving Grace to rely on emotionally absent parents, the ever growing divide between herself and best friend Mia and Jake, Ben's best friend who is content to ride a downward spiral into alcohol and drug abuse, taking Grace along for the ride.

I found Grace's method of coping confronting, but entirely realistic. She's enabled by Jake who is content to drown his sorrows in a cocktail of alcohol and recreational drugs. She feels that no one other than Jake understands the sorrow in her life and cannot see past her own grief as she spirals out of control. As the Walker family unit begins to break down, it's Grace's best friend Mia who is isolated, abused by Grace herself when lashing out all whilst dealing with a drunken sexual assault in which her perpetrator was never held to account. It also highlighted how females who have been sexually assaulted or victims of rape, fail to report the assault to the authorities. I had hoped the friends in Mia's life would have addressed the issue, beyond Ben defending her honour with a show of male dominance. Seeing Mia's light extinguished, her once vibrant persona now withdrawn and I desperately wanted justice for her.

Set within a quintessential Australian coastal town, Sophie Hardcastle weaves a beautifully poignant story of loss, losing your way and how tragedy threatens to drown those left behind. The writing was delicate and lyrical, captivating from the very first page. Sophie Hardcastle is a phenomenal author who will no doubt become an Australian favourite with teens for many generations to come. 
Gazing at the splinters of a life once lived, I finally come to see life for all that it is. We breathe, for a while, and then we come to rest. We become the earth, the clouds and the deep sea currents, the summer swells and the winter tides.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Book One
Written by Ransom Riggs
Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery
Film Edition Published August 15th 2016
384 Pages
Thank you to Penguin Random House Australia
Add to Goodreads
A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen year old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow, impossible though it seems, they may still be alive.
Growing up, sixteen year old Jacob was always fascinated by his grandfathers fantastical stories. A man who escaped Poland before the approaching second world war, his parents sending him alone on a train to Britain only to have perished, leaving his grandfather orphaned and taken in by Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children in Wales. This is no ordinary children's home as Jacob is about to discover.

Along with his father on a bird watching expedition, Jacob now stands among the ruins of the once loved children's home. In the hope of rekindling his wondrous childhood, Jacob believes his fate is wrapped up in the derelict home where his grandfather was once young and free spirited. Armed with a collection of vintage photographs and his grandfathers stories, Jacob will discover a world parallel to his own. A world of wonder, enchantment and a world on the verge of destruction.

My Thoughts

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was fantastical, a wonderfully rich and picturesque world that enchants and delights. Sixteen year old Jacob stands among the ruins of the once stately Wales manor, formerly an orphanage for children during the second world war including Jacob's grandfather. As a young boy, Jacob was raised on the tales of mythical children who were extraordinary. Invisibility, levitation, creating, shaping and enchanting the children's home where taught by Miss Peregrine herself.

As the modern realm advances, the children are protected by a time loop and live each day with endless possibilities knowing that the sun will rise again. While Jacob's grandfather enlisted in the war effort, returned, married and begun a family of his own, the children of Miss Peregrine's haven't aged. Perpetual children who are loved, cared for and given refuge against a cruel world.

So incredibly whimsical, the children were lovingly created and their world vividly painted. I was captivated. Throughout the first installment, the reader is treated to a collection of images of the children under Miss Peregrine's care. It was incredibly atmospheric and immersive.


Told through Jacob's point of view, Jacob is teen lashing out after tragedy befalls the Portman family. He's antisocial and insists on retracing his grandfathers childhood tales with his unemployed father in tow. His father has never understood the connection his own father shared with Jacob, but under the guise of a bird watching expedition and advice from Jacob's therapist, the duo adventure to the small Welsh island.

What makes Jacob extraordinary himself is the children of the orphanage. Dapper Horace who has premonitions of the future, Hugh who is seemingly made of bees, Enoch who can animate the dead, the invisible Millard and Emma Bloom who is the homes resident pyrokinetic, able to create and control fire. Emma and Jacob are attracted to one another especially given her connection to his grandfather, but their attraction is a gentle companionship rather than a passionate teen romance.

It was nothing short of breathtaking. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children's whimsically eerie storyline of the curious and wonderful. Lyrically beautiful and immersive, I absolutely adored it.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
will be released in Australian cinemas on September 29th 2016.
© Diva Booknerd. Design by Fearne.