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There are numerous authors who are innovating the world of Young Adult Literature. They are challenging often hushed topics within the YA world head on with such gusto, it’s inspiring. They’re addressing mental health and other topics that seem to get glazed over, and they’re addressing them with realness. Whilst some of these authors, such as Jennifer Niven and Jay Asher, have had parents crying out for their books to be banned from classes, there are teenagers and adults alike who are begging for more — and it’s not hard to see why.

With her two YA novels, All the Bright Places and Holding Up the Universe, Jennifer has added to the conversations that we need to be having. Using diverse characters, she is one of those authors who is helping us start to think and talk about mental health, self-love, and how we can be better people.

To those who know me, it’s no secret that I’m a big lover of Jennifer Niven’s novels. So far (there’s more on the way – hurrah!), she has written 9 novels — covering non-fiction and fiction, historical and contemporary, and adult and YA — and each one contains something that will pull at your heartstrings in all the best ways. As she says herself, “At first glance, my books are all over the map, but if you look closely, they share a common theme: they are stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

After falling in love with All the Bright Places, I decided to read the rest of Jennifer’s novels, and I ended up falling in love with those too. In addition to addressing essential topics, here are a few reasons why I believe you should read as many Jennifer Niven novels that you can get your hands on:


Jennifer’s characters hold qualities that make them seem more than fictional; maybe this is because many are loosely based on real people, so their personalities grip us effortlessly.

Ada Blackjack, her comrades, and the men in The Ice Master arguably make us realize that adventure must be grabbed with both hands and that life must be appreciated.

Velva Jean makes us realize that “flying free” is what we need to do more, not to keep ourselves tethered to things or to have people hold us back.

Finch, Violet, Jack, and Libby — who inspires us to twirl more every day — help us through times when we feel like we’re at the very end of the road. I see comments suggesting that they’ve stood beside many of us through the challenging times, and they continue to do so whilst reminding us what we’re worth and how strong we are. They have helped people accept themselves, have helped open our eyes to see that not everything is always as it seems, and have taught us that we’re not that different from each other.

All her characters have taught me to love unconditionally and, more importantly, to be brave no matter what.


Arguably, the things I love most about these books are their wonderfully embellished narratives and their descriptive excellence. And don’t get me started on the emotional rollercoasters Jennifer has so expertly built into each one. The dedication of getting to know her characters and their stories before she writes is clear throughout; she feels them, and she makes us feel them too.

You can tell that Jennifer is one of those who loves the research process through the way she collates information and compiles it so that it is true to life yet still highly readable. When facts are presented, she ensures that they’re included in their full glory in the best ways possible. With her non-fiction, it’s clear that she’s tried her utmost to produce a true and honest account of the lives and experiences of these people. These weren’t written for academics or solely for people interested in the Arctic and Arctic explorations; these were written for everyone.

The Woman Herself

Undeniably one of the sweetest, most kind-hearted people I know, she gives all she can. She is incredibly talented, down to earth, and determined to inject happiness into an often somber world. Her words make us feel like we can take on the world whilst standing on the shoulders of giants. She makes us feel wanted, necessary, loved, and like we belong. She provides friendship, inspiration, love, self-belief, and hope that one day we can leave the broken universes behind and step out of the castle into the vast world beyond.

Throughout all of Jennifer Niven’s books, I was compelled to keep reading — chapter after chapter, page after page, word after word. Every spare moment, my eyes were fixed on the coarse, inked pages, and 3am became a time I saw frequently during weekends.

I highly recommend every single one of her novels, and I’m currently wondering when it’s acceptable to start from the beginning again.





Katie-May currently lives in the UK, but she is constantly dreaming of all the places that lay waiting across the horizon. Currently studying for a degree in nursing, she often still wonders what life would have been like had she achieved the dream her three-year-old self had of becoming a blackbird. She is grateful to have Jennifer Niven in her life as a friend and inspiration, and she aspires to follow in her footsteps of making the world a better place. A self-confessed bibliophile, she enjoys reading, seeking out adventures, dancing to Fleetwood Mac, expertly miming to ABBA, and secondhand bookshops.

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