Monday, May 30, 2016

Review: Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes
Series: Standalone
Published: May 17th, 2016       
Publisher: HarperTeen
382 pages (eARC)
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Acquired this book: Via Edelweiss in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

Maguire is bad luck.

No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time the rollercoaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.

It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid meeting new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away is harder than she thought.


Girl Against the Universe encompasses everything I love about contemporary YA: a strong heroine who I easily related to; real-life issues; emphasis on family and friendships; and a romantic relationship that’s impossible not to root for. It also went above and beyond with its realistic portrayal of mental illness and therapy.

After a series of incidents where people got hurt or even killed around Maguire, she believes she’s bad luck. She stays away from people and avoids forming attachments because she’s afraid of people getting hurt. When her therapist begins assigning her ‘homework’ so she can work through her fears, things start changing for her and she slowly begins living a more normal, functional life.

I loved how this book dealt with mental health, and not only how it affects the person suffering, but also the people around them. It was difficult for Maguire to open up and reveal her fears, but her new friends were understanding and patient. Not everyone gets it; with some people, when you tell them about your issues, they might think you’re crazy or that being around you is too much effort. I’ve suffered from anxiety (particularly social anxiety) and depression for years, and there have been times when I’ve needed a lot of hand holding - I can’t go out on my own, or I depend on whoever’s with me to handle certain situations. I have a small group of trusted people who understand and know when to take charge and when to quietly step back and let me exert some independence. Those parts of the book especially resonated with me because Maguire deserved those friends and deserved to have people who cared for her unconditionally. Nobody wants their own brain to be their worst enemy, but for some people that’s how it is. Maguire’s story was hopeful and inspiring as she learned to overcome years of fears and anxiety. The overall message is one that’s so important, no matter how old you are, or whether you suffer from anxiety or not: bravery comes in all different forms. It isn’t always huge gestures or putting your life in danger or conquering something major. Sometimes it’s opening yourself up to possibilities, letting people in, and taking baby steps.

There’s just so much to love about Girl Against the Universe. I enjoyed the tentative relationships Maguire formed, from her therapist to Jordy to her new friends at school and even to her own stepdad. The slow burn romance between Maguire and Jordy was so much fun to watch; the obstacles they had to overcome were realistic and made it easy to believe in them as a couple.

Girl Against the Universe is a beautiful story. It’s funny, emotional, romantic, and it left me with an overall hopeful feeling. I laughed and cried, and I felt so proud of Maguire and her growth. I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason, whether you understand the reason or not, and I appreciated that theme in the book, even while Maguire worked hard to change her life and take back what the Universe had taken from her. If you’re looking for great contemporary YA with complex characters, I highly recommend Girl Against the Universe.

Have you read Girl Against the Universe? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Do you have a favourite book that deals with mental health and/or therapy? Do you have any good luck charms or rituals?


  1. Well, just swell! Another book to add to my list! ;) This one sounds perfect!

    1. Haha! It's fantastic Jenny, I hope you'll enjoy it.


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