The Universe Is Expanding and So Am I by Carolyn Mackler (ARC)
Our Rating: 2.5
Goodreads Rating: 4.18
This Book in a Song: All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor
Virginia Shreves’ world implodes again in this long-awaited follow-up to Printz Honoree The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things.
Sixteen-year-old Virginia Shreves’ life is finally back on course: she’s accepted who she is inside and out and is rebuilding her relationship with brother Byron, whose date-rape charge shattered everything.
But just as she adjusts to her new normal, her world turns upside down again. Sparks with boyfriend Froggy fade, her best friend bombshells bad news, and then the police arrest Byron. As Virginia struggles to cope, she meets Nate, an artist with his own baggage. The pair vow not to share personal drama. But secrets have a way of coming out, and theirs could ruin everything.
Just in time for The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things’ 15th anniversary, Virginia’s hope-filled story of love, friendship, and the beauty in imperfection continues, by acclaimed author Carolyn Mackler.
Disclaimer: I have not read the first book in this series, so I filled in the backstory with the details this book provided. However, the story still worked fine as a standalone.
Virginia Shreves must navigate the twists and turns of her life as her summer fills up with drama. She experiences both highs and lows, and one thing is certain: by time everything blows over, she will be changed for better or for worse.
Before I continue, I want to say that I think this book had a good message. It was body positive, and that was good. That was what earned it the 2.5 stars.
I did appreciate the date rape storyline. This was fascinating and I believe that Mackler did an excellent job balancing Virginia’s loyalty to her brother with the reality of the situation. However, this was not focused on enough in my opinion, and that was truly unfortunate, especially given the time in which this book was published. I understand why that story arc was tossed to the side a little-it wasn’t exactly Virginia’s story to tell-but I wish that it could have earned a little more attention.
The body image aspect was something that I wanted to like, but I just couldn’t. I got the message by page one: Virginia was overweight. It was a significant burden on her. Which is very understandable. I can imagine that it’s constantly on her mind. There was hardly anything more to her character than her being overweight and spiteful about it. I understood where these feelings were coming from, but they were too repetitive for me to appreciate them at all.
Virginia as a whole was overly dramatic. Most people who know me consider me dramatic. Am I as bad or as juvenile as Virginia? No. I would argue that I’m not even close. Despite Virginia finding her confidence and standing up for herself, the dialogue and a majority of Virginia’s thoughts seemed fairly juvenile as well. It just didn’t work for me.
Her love story with Sebastian was also lacking. It was predictable, cheesy, and cliché. I can accept all of these so long as they are pulled off right (a la Kasie West). Sebastian was described as perfect and is one dimensional and never does anything wrong. The one serious argument they have falls flat and just didn’t feel real.
Okay, so I’m being a little dramatic, but you get the point. It was frustrating. I felt no spark, and I couldn’t tell why he liked her or why she liked him other than the fact that he was just so perfect.
Similarly, Mackler’s attempt to make Virginia real and relatable became irksome and began to irritate me. There were several name checks that seemed to be unnecessary and almost as if she was proving that she was pop cultured. Maybe it was an attempt to show Virginia’s story fifteen years later. I’m not sure. Again, I didn’t read the first book.
Despite containing mature content, this book is better suited for younger readers. Like I mentioned earlier, everything about it, particularly Virginia, came off as far too juvenile. The dialogue, the thoughts, the texts, the dramatic outbursts…all of those were better left in late middle school or early high school. Perhaps I’m the one outgrowing this.
Whatever it was, this book didn’t work for me. It had a positive message and good intentions, but it failed to impress me. I’d recommend it to someone under sixteen or someone who read the first book in this series and wanted a time capsule sort of book. It was probably more enjoyable if it was a throwback for you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for me, so I can’t review it as positively as some.
*I received this eARC from Netgalley/Publishers in exchange for an honest review*