Review: Girl Against The Universe by Paula Stokes

Title: Girl Against The Universe
Author : Paula Stokes
Genre : Young Adult, Contemporary
Publication Date : May 17th, 2016
Publisher :  HarperTeen
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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.

From author Paula Stokes comes a funny and poignant novel about accepting the past, embracing the future, and learning to make your own luck.
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REVIEW

I think many of us have those moments where we think that something we do (or don’t) may be bad luck for someone, or for a certain type of situation.  For example, I always think that listening to any type of music before my exams is surely going to result in me not being able to do my best.  It’s a stupid superstition that I know makes no sense, (which makes it worse) but here it is.  It started when I was in lower school, and I’m almost 20 now, and I still believe it with everything in me.

Maguire, our heroine, believes she is bad luck.  After having had some crazy accidents happen to her wherein she escaped almost unscathed, she has a number of rituals that she follows, and she thinks that keeping to them religiously will prevent people around her from harm because of her.  Girl Against The Universe starts with Maguire in a session with her therapist, with her barely speaking to him or even acknowledging him because she fiercely believes that no amount of therapy is going to improve her luck.  The universe hates her and she is quite literally, a girl trying to go against the universe.

One of my favourite things about Maguire was her self-awareness.  Here was a girl who knew her good points and weaknesses and her faults, and I’m not even talking about the “I’m serious bad luck,” business.  I’m talking about all the times she was content being herself without being influenced to be someone else, and that is rare in YA.  During the course of the book, Maguire made huge progress psychologically, but I’d like to think that she also grew as a person, became more mature, and all this simply because she became so much more comfortable with herself.  What really really impressed me was how well Maguire knew herself, to the point where in the first half of the book, though she wanted to, she wouldn’t let herself get into a relationship with a guy she liked because she knew she wan’t ready for it.  It was empowering and brave, and it’s one of the most brilliantly presented things I’ll be taking away from this book.

The other part of Girl Against The Universe is Magurie’s relationship is Jordy.  Maguire meets Jordy for the first time when he is waiting to speak to her therapist.  He is next in queue after her, and what begins as a tentative experiment for finishing his “shrink homework” later blossoms into a cute romance.  Jordy was…a wild card?  I think that’d be the best way to put it.  His circumstances were completely different from Maguire’s, troubling and sad in their own right, but somehow, I couldn’t quite empathise with Jordy like I did with Maguire.  There was nothing wrong with him, (in fact, he’s the quintessential book boyfriend and so so swoony) my only problem was that I couldn’t trust him.  Maybe it was just me, but Jordy is the only thing I didn’t quite get with, right up until maybe 80% of the book.

Athletic girls are quite awesome, both in books and outside.  It was amazing how Maguire picked up her old habit of playing tennis and used it to distract her from everything that went on in her brain.  Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always found sports to be both relaxing in that it helps to distract you, and exhausting because it tires you to the point that you can’t think anymore.  And I loved how Maguire took advantage of this. She used her strengths, worked on her mistakes, and her entire journey helped her reach out to other people, overcome her most basic fear of hurting people with her bad luck and become the badass I knew she could be 😃  Maguire’s relationship with her family (especially her stepfather) is one to look forward to.  I love when parents are involved in a YA protagonist’s life—because hey, they’re involved irl too!—and Maguire had a loving, supportive family to look out for her!

 I can’t believe this book, because it is basically the book of my heart, and holy shit, books like this exist!  And Paula Stokes brings this book and it’s truly unique characters to life with her writing which captures and charms in its simplicity.  Girl Against The Universe is inspiring and cute and I daresay, THE summer read of 2016 🙂

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