Review: Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

Posted June 2, 2016 by Samantha in Reviews / 4 Comments

Review: Girl Against the Universe by Paula StokesGirl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes
Published by HarperCollins on May 17th 2016
Genres: Adolescence, Friendship, General, Love & Romance, Romance, Social Issues, Social Themes, Young Adult, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Rating: five-starsfive-starsfive-starsfive-starsfive-stars

From the author of The Art of Lainey and Liars, Inc. comes a fresh, contemporary story about one girl’s tragic past and a boy who convinces her that maybe her luck is about to change. Perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen or Jenny Han.Maguire knows she’s 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 her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch. But then on her way out of her therapist’s office, she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star, who wants to help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away, but staying away may be harder than she thought.

Hi all! If you haven’t heard, Read Diverse Books has created a feature called Read Diverse Books Year-Round, which encourages “all book bloggers to read at least one book that falls under one of the following categories every month: 1) A book by and about a person of color, 2) A book by or about a person with a disability, and/or 3) A book by an author who identifies as LGBT or about LGBT issues.” The goal is to support diverse books and #ownvoices.

I absolutely love this feature. As a white, cishet female, my role is largely as an ally, a supporter, and a listener, and sharing diverse reads from diverse authors is one small way I can help. My goal is to review a wide range of diverse titles through this feature, though I do have a tendency to gravitate towards books that deal with mental illness, specifically depression and anxiety, since I am diagnosed with those myself.

I picked Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes for my first book for this feature. It deals with mental illness and, even more specifically, includes therapy treatment. The author has been very vocal about mental health in books. I was also drawn toward it for personal reasons because my own mental health has often made me feel like the Universe and I are at odds.


Short and Sweet:

If you don’t want to read the part of my review that’s more personal, here’s the quick version of my thoughts on this book: Girl Against the Universe is a must-read for anyone who has ever needed healing, anyone who loves athletics and team friendships, and anyone who enjoys a slow and fiery burn romance. Recommend 10000 times over.

To Elaborate….

Maguire believes she is cursed with bad luck. Not bad luck like missing a bus or losing a shirt, but life and death bad luck where those around her have a tendency to get killed or hurt, starting with several members of her family dying in a car crash she walked away from unscathed. When she meets Jordy, a fellow therapy-goer and tennis star, they decide to help each other with a few challenges, but Maguire is all too aware of how dangerous things can happen when people get close to her.

Maguire deals with PTSD, panic attacks, and other related mental illnesses, and a good portion of her story revolves around going to therapy and doing personal challenges to help her heal. I deal with severe depression and anxiety, and I’ve been to therapy many times, so I immediately felt a close connection to Maguire. What I didn’t expect was the way her healing and her mindset mirrors my own in many ways. Maguire is very self aware, often recognizing when her thoughts or thought patterns aren’t healthy, but still believing them on a level that strongly effects her. She feels an intense desire to control the space around her, which is horribly difficult because no one can control the Universe.

One of the ways Maguire’s story is so special is because of her willpower. There are many times she feels weak and scared, and there are many times she responds to those emotions in a negative way. However, she challenges herself to keep going. A method of therapy used in this book (which rings extremely true, as I’ve used similar techniques) involves setting a big goal and creating several steps (or even mini-goals) to work yourself up to being ready for the big one. This of course doesn’t mean that the accomplishment of the Big Goal will solve everything, and that there will be no more panic attacks or rough times. A prominent message for anyone with mental illness is that there will be good and bad days no matter what. Therapy can accomplish many things, one of which is restructuring your thought process and coping methods so that the bad days can be handled in a healthy manner.

As I’m still going through my own healing process, I had a resounding thought while reading Maguire’s story: This is it. This is what I want my own healing to look like. Healing is different for everyone, but what I find so meaningful in Maguire’s is the way she starts to work with her fear and slowly, very slowly, accepts both that she cannot control the Universe but also that the Universe can’t control her. Some days, I feel as powerful as Maguire is, ready to choose happiness and lean on my support system when necessary. Other days, I am Maguire hiding in her room, under the blankets with a book, knowing that one room absent of other people is far easier to control than the rest of the world. Either way, Maguire has without a doubt become a character that feels like a friend, one I will likely find myself turning to again and again when I need to.

Moving away from the mental health part of the story, and on a much lighter note, this book has one of the best romances I’ve read in a long time. Both Jordy and Maguire are working through their own issues, and they never let the state of their mental health rely solely on the other person. They support each other and encourage each other, but neither uses the other as a distraction or puts the weight on their happiness on him/her. Their flirting is adorable and goofy, and I officially declare Jordy as my Personal Book Boyfriend™. Maguire’s family is also a lovely part of the story, and her discussions with her stepdad are some of my favorite in the book.

Overall, Paula Stokes writes a forceful, compassionate, and hopeful story about a young woman who learns to meet the Universe on her own terms, as best she can.


4 Responses to “Review: Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes”

  1. Hi, Samantha.
    Thank you for sharing your review and being honest and vulnerable with your readership.
    I’m always happy to see when readers personally connect with books on such a deep level. 🙂

  2. I really loved Paula Stokes’s THE ART OF LAINEY, so I’m definitely picking this one up. This one does sound a lot more powerful and “heavier” than her previous book, which was pretty fluffy. Can’t wait to start this one! Great review 😀