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Islington Branch Book Club - Past Titles: "Holding up the Universe" by Jennifer Niven

Take a look through previous titles we've discussed at our Islington Branch Book Club

"Holding up the Universe" by Jennifer Niven

  1. Identity and Self-Acceptance:

    • How do the main characters, Libby and Jack, struggle with their identities throughout the novel?
    • In what ways do societal expectations impact their sense of self?
    • Discuss the significance of Libby's journey toward self-acceptance and how it parallels Jack's struggle with prosopagnosia.
  2. Body Image and Bullying:

    • How does the novel address issues of body image and weight discrimination through Libby's character?
    • How do societal attitudes toward body image affect Libby's self-esteem and interactions with others?
    • Discuss the portrayal of bullying in the novel and its impact on both Libby and Jack.
  3. Prosopagnosia and Empathy:

    • Explore the challenges Jack faces living with prosopagnosia. How does this condition affect his relationships and sense of identity?
    • Discuss the role of empathy in the novel, particularly in how characters navigate their differences and connect with one another despite their individual struggles.
  4. Family Dynamics:

    • Analyze the family dynamics of Libby and Jack. How do their relationships with their families influence their personal growth and development?
    • In what ways do familial expectations and pressures shape their identities and decisions?
  5. Friendship and Romance:

    • Discuss the evolving friendship between Libby and Jack. How do they support and challenge each other throughout the novel?
    • How does the romantic subplot contribute to the overall themes of the story? What does it reveal about the characters' vulnerabilities and desires for connection?
  6. Overcoming Adversity:

    • Explore the theme of resilience in the face of adversity. How do Libby and Jack navigate their challenges and find strength within themselves?
    • Discuss moments of growth and self-discovery for both characters. How do they ultimately overcome their struggles?
  7. Perception vs. Reality:

    • Consider the theme of perception versus reality in the novel. How do characters' perceptions of themselves and others differ from reality?
    • Discuss instances where characters' assumptions about each other are challenged, leading to deeper understanding and connection.
  8. Impact of Trauma:

    • Analyze how past traumas influence the characters' present-day struggles and relationships.
    • Discuss the importance of seeking help and support in healing from trauma, as depicted in the novel.
  9. Social Media and Authenticity:

    • Explore the role of social media in shaping characters' perceptions of themselves and others.
    • How does the novel comment on the authenticity of online personas versus real-life experiences?
  10. Hope and Resilience:

    • Reflect on the novel's message of hope and resilience. How do Libby and Jack inspire readers to embrace their uniqueness and overcome obstacles in their lives?

Jennifer Niven is an American author known for her works in young adult fiction, contemporary romance, and non-fiction. Born on June 13, 1968, in Charlotte, North Carolina, Niven spent her childhood in Indiana and California. She comes from a family with a strong literary background; her mother was a writer, and her father served as a television producer.

Niven attended college at American University in Washington, D.C., where she studied English and German literature. After completing her undergraduate studies, she pursued a master's degree in screenwriting from the University of Southern California.

Niven began her writing career in the field of film and television, working as a script editor and producer for various production companies. She also worked in the publishing industry, serving as an editor for several years before transitioning to full-time writing.

In 2000, Jennifer Niven published her debut novel, "The Ice Master," a non-fiction book based on the true story of a disastrous Arctic expedition in the early 20th century. Following this, she wrote several non-fiction books, including "Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic" (2003) and "The Aqua Net Diaries: Big Hair, Big Dreams, Small Town" (2010).

However, Niven gained widespread recognition with her young adult novels, particularly "All the Bright Places," published in 2015. The novel, which explores themes of mental illness, grief, and teenage love, received critical acclaim and became a New York Times bestseller. It was later adapted into a film by Netflix in 2020.

Following the success of "All the Bright Places," Niven continued to write young adult fiction, including "Holding up the Universe" (2016), which tackles issues of body image, identity, and love. Her other works include "Breathless" (2020), a contemporary romance novel, and "Take Me With You" (2021), a young adult novel about friendship and grief.

Jennifer Niven's writing is known for its emotional depth, relatable characters, and exploration of challenging topics. She has garnered a dedicated readership and continues to connect with audiences through her compelling storytelling.

Outside of her writing career, Niven is an advocate for mental health awareness and suicide prevention, drawing from her own experiences and the themes explored in her novels. She resides in Los Angeles, California, where she continues to write and engage with her readers through various platforms.


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