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Girl Against the Universe

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From the author of The Art of Lainey and Liars, Inc. comes a fresh, contemporary story about a girl coping with PTSD and the boy who wants to help her move on from the past.

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

Despite what her therapist tells her, Maguire thinks it's best to hide out in her room, far away from anyone she might accidentally hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star who wants to help her break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for him is to stay away, but it turns out staying away might be harder than she thought.

400 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 17, 2016

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About the author

Paula Stokes

18 books1,154 followers
*** Please contact me via the contact information on my website: authorpaulastokes.com ***

Paula Stokes is half writer, half RN, and totally thrilled to be part of the world of YA literature. She started out writing historical fiction under a pen name and is now branching out into other YA genres.

When she's not working (rare), she's kayaking, hiking, reading, or seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. She's petted tigers, snuggled snakes, snorkeled with stingrays, and once enjoyed the suction-cuppy feel of a baby elephant's trunk as it ate peanuts from her palm. Her future goals include diving with Great White sharks, learning Krav Maga, and writing a whole slew of novels, not necessarily in that order.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 960 reviews
Profile Image for Paula Stokes.
Author 18 books1,154 followers
Want to read
November 5, 2015
A funny thing happened on the way to publication. We changed the title and then thanks to the brilliant suggestions of my editor, I changed a LOT of the book. Like 40% of the book. And although it's still swoony and funny and I still think fans of The Art of Lainey will enjoy this, it's taken on a darker, more serious tone.

But not too dark. Page one is a therapy session so I don't feel like it's spoilery to tell you that Maguire is struggling with some psychological issues. A lot of my own struggles with anxiety are reflected in these pages, as well as research I did online and in graduate school. I also reached out to readers who have struggled with anxiety and PTSD and recruited them to review the edited manuscript and give me feedback. We all hurt and heal in different ways, so obviously this story won't work for everyone, but my goal was to write something that struck a balance between realism and hope.

ARCs will be available on EW. If you're interested in the changes made between printing the ARC and the final book, see the discussion thread at the bottom of the page. Thanks and happy reading :)
Profile Image for Rose.
417 reviews589 followers
December 9, 2016
ME: *flailing* *twirling* *wants to go out and take on the universe*

How do I write a review on a book too precious and perfect for this world?

I can't remember ever having read a book about mental illness that was so positive and hopeful, but still so incredibly realistic? It gave an honest look into how a girl worked through her trauma with the support and encouragement of her family, friends, and therapist.

Maguire is the main character, who lost her father and brother in a car accident years ago, but can't seem to stop thinking that it's her fault. They died, while she lived (and without injury). Her life following their deaths is just a series of events that involve everyone around her getting hurt while she remains completely untouched. She pretty much becomes a hermit so that she won't hurt others around her anymore... until she decides otherwise.

UGH, I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHERE TO START?! I'm just gonna list things because paragraphs can be boring and I can't even form proper sentences right now.

1. MAGUIRE DIDN'T NEED A SAVIOR. The synopsis made it sound like Jordy would be her savior.. but, no. She's the one who pushes through her fears, and makes the decision to do so on her own. Jordy's there, but he's her support, not her sole reason.

2. JOOOOORDY. Boy who deflects people from really knowing him with his cocky-womanizer persona? Have we seen this before? Yes, but trust me when I say he's different. Also, his adoration for Maguire melted my heart into a big, messy puddle. *sighs*

3. PENN. JADY. Maybe Kimber? Friends with bold, fun personalities that support and motivate you? Yes, please.

4. INVOLVED PARENTS. No missing-parent syndrome here. There's a mom who listens, and a step-dad who truly cares. They both hear her, and they try, which is what I think what always matters most, you know?

Oh, and I think therapy is so awesome. This is Pyschology-Major-Rose talking, but seriously. I've seen how therapy has completely changed peoples lives. It not just for survivors of trauma, but also to help people go through their everyday lives. I'm so incredibly happy that Paula brought such a positive light onto something that people seem to make wrong assumptions about.

So, overall Girl Against the Universe is a refreshing look at mental illness that kept things light, but honest. Seriously this review does no justice for the book, and I highly recommend it people!!! And shit! I totally skipped out on the romance aspect, but ugh it's sweet and real, and it gave me Anna and the French Kiss feels (my highest praise for cuteness).
Profile Image for Aj the Ravenous Reader.
1,030 reviews1,045 followers
June 6, 2018
“The first thing that you need to realize is that mental health is fluid. It’s not like you have an infection and a doctor gives you antibiotics and then you’re cured. No matter what the two of us accomplish together, you’re still going to have good days and bad days. Makes sense?”

This is another winner in the contemporary YA genre that deals with mental health issues. There came a time when I thought I have had enough of these books but recently I’ve learned that I could never have enough. There is always something to learn about general mental health condition and Girl Against the Universe is another great read that deals with multiple disorder.

In Maguire’s case, she developed an irrational fear of being around people in her belief that her mere existence can cause danger to other people’s lives after being the only survival of a fatal car accident that took away the lives of three people she loved. Coincidentally, since then she had been the one always spared of accidents whether petty or grave and has since decided to generally stay away from people and learned to live and accept life mostly in isolation.

It was written very well, kind of lightheartedly and I completely enjoyed her progress as her therapist guides her one step at a time through cognitive behavioral therapy during the course of which, she met friends, a romantic interest which also adorably started with friendship and a great relationship with her stepdad and new siblings.

The sports element is also a plus as well as the humor and the overall easy approach of the author on the story. I also love the strength of Maguire’s character and how she resolves to help herself and cope with her condition without having to sacrifice her or other people’s well-being and happiness. Another recommended read!
Profile Image for Fafa's Book Corner.
512 reviews298 followers
May 24, 2016
Review posted on Fafa's Book Corner !

Beware spoilers ahead!

I had heard about this book through GR. For awhile I was very hesitant to read this book. Not gonna lie but the first came across this book I only read the first sentence and immediately thought Maguire was crazy. I went back again and this time finished reading the synopsis and I actually liked it. A few months passed and I found out about the mental health in this book and I put it together. It's not that Maguire is crazy but it's because of several incidents that makes her believe that she is bad luck. Another reason I decided to read it is because of this post . In this post Paula Stokes had a guest post on The Midnight Garden. Paula talks about how anxiety doesn't make us weak. She also mentions Girl Against the Against and all the research that went into the book. I was in awe after reading the guest post and decided to read it. I am happy to say that I enjoyed it!

The book begins in August and Maguire visiting her cognitive behavioral therapist Dr. Leed. For the first few visits Maguire doesn't say much. She has no interest in seeing Dr. Leed and certainly doesn't want to talk. One day she explains Dr. Leed about the car accident that killed her brother, uncle, and father, but she stayed alive. Then when she was 12 years old she went to a sleepover. Somehow all the other girls got food poisoning but she was fine. The girl who held the sleepover spread a rumor that Maguire was bad luck. After that Maguire put everything in her life together and started to believe it.

She begged her mother to homeschool her without mentioning the bad luck. Her mother said no so Maguire developed coping strategies. Every morning Maguire has a morning good luck ritual. She wears a lucky pendant. She does five second checks to look for any hazards. She knocks on wood or any other textured table three times. And has a luck notebook where she records every bad thing that has happened to her.

While this does work for her purposes she isolates herself from everyone. She spends most of her time in her bedroom and avoids everyone so that she doesn't cause them any harm. One day her mother brings up her grandmother and going to visit their family in Ireland. Maguire has a breakdown because she can't go to Ireland because that would involve traveling by plane. If Maguire were to go on a plane she wouldn't be able to control her surrounding and it would become overwhelming to do her five second checks. Maguire is absolutely devastated because she would like to her family again. Maguire brings this up to Dr. Leed and together they come up with a list of seven tasks the goal being to go to Ireland.

I am a little disappointed that I didn't like this book as much as I thought I would. Nonetheless I still enjoyed it! This book is written in first person in Maguire's point of view. It is divided into parts from August to December. And there are 20 therapy sessions. As usual the writing style was well done!

I absolutely loved the relationships in this book! Maguire's family was so supportive and sweet. I loved reading about the interactions between Maguire and her step-father. And hello a well done relationship with a step-parent is always good in my opinion! Her half siblings Erin and Jake (short for Jacob) were so cute! Her mother was so sweet trying to help Maguire get out of her comfort zone while always remaining there. Also her mother was unemployed and it was portrayed nicely! No one made a jab at her for being unemployed so that she could be there for her family. Like I said I absolutely adored the family aspect!

During her tennis tryout (apart of her tasks list) Maguire meets Jade. Who later becomes one of Maguire's best friends. Jade is informed about Maguire and how she believes she is bad luck. After finding out Jade remains with Maguire throughout the whole book and never once does she assume that Maguire is crazy (like I did when I read the first sentence of the synopsis). There's also Penn who is Jordy's sister. Penn also remains supportive just like Jade and Maguire's family. When Maguire meets Jordy they agree to help each other in achieving their goals. Jordy also visits Dr. Leed but for very different reasons. Dr. Leed is also supporting Maguire and helps her with comings up with some tasks for her list. I loved reading about the therapy sessions!

When Maguire and Dr. Leed made her task list Maguire assumed everything would go perfectly. Of course that didn't happen but she did grew throughout the whole book. And most of the time the tasks were accomplished. Even if they were accomplished in very unexpected ways. Jordy also grew through the whole book. Maguire and Jordy where able to help each other achieve their goals. It's revealed pretty early why Jordy is seeing Dr. Leed. I felt pretty bad for him but it was nice that he had Penn to support him as well.

I'm not exactly sure how to categorize the romance. Jordy falls for Maguire pretty quickly. And while the two have a lot of make-out sessions they don't start dating towards the end of the book. Maguire spends most of her time with Jordy to try and push him away because she's afraid that she'll hurt him and he's not exactly in the position to date her. Maguire wants to get her life sorted out first. Which was admirable but it was pretty obvious that Maguire had feelings for Jordy. The romance really confused me.

I had a few problems with Girl Against the Universe. During the October section I found that it started to drag. And it became boring to read about the daily activities. Now I know that this is a contemporary and you do read about daily activities, I just found this to be very boring. I didn't like how most of the times Jade and Maguire would talk to each other it was about Jordy. I know that girls will talk to each other about their crushes and whatnot but Jordy was in most of their conversations.

As mentioned above the romance really confused me. Especially how Maguire would want to focus on herself but still kiss Jordy back and not admit that she had feelings for him. I feel somewhat indifferent to Jordy. Jordy actually confused me most of the times. This was definitely done on purpose because Jordy didn't really know himself. While yes he was nice to Maguire with helping her and understanding, he still said stuff that I didn't like. And overall he was confusing to read about. And lastly I felt that I didn't know Maguire. Maguire is written quite vague which might come from the fact that she doesn't get out. But I'm pretty sure that it was done on purpose. Nonetheless I still enjoyed this book!

Overall this was a good book! I recommend it to everyone because I feel that while I didn't love it, it's important to read this book.
Profile Image for emma.
1,823 reviews48.7k followers
August 12, 2018
meh. no, thanks.

i get what this book was trying to do and that's rad and if what it's trying to do managed to be what was done for you...well, uh, good. but it didn't work for me.

this kind of reminded me of Made You Up in that the world feels so surreal and ridiculous and the high school experience is so simplistic and easy and friends and love interests just pop up right when you need them but only disturb you when it will further the plot and so all of that just makes the mental illness rep feel un-f*cking-real. (i hated Made You Up with my life. one star!!)

again. if this book does it for you - great. not tryna take that away from you. but i was so distracted by the weirdness of the world and the flatness of the characters - they all exist only in how they interact with this girl, which is to say "perfectly acting as a proponent of her larger character arc"!! ugh. so boring and meh to me.

bottom line: no thanks, but it's not that deep. so like. don't get mad at me thank u plz.
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,797 followers
August 14, 2017
DNF @ 25%

I'm unsure whether I dislike the general feel of the book, or the cliche-ness of it, or if this is just a strange slump that's making EVERYTHING hard to read but I just don't have the heart to continue.

There's not WRONG with it, it's just blehhhhh and the plot is kinda just romance and im bored and not invested at all so like imma pass yo.


1.5 stars!!
Profile Image for Alyssa.
1,069 reviews839 followers
February 29, 2016
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: May 17, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

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.

What I Liked:

I'd like to start my review by saying that this book was not nearly as difficult to read as I'd expected. See, the thing is, I do not like to read books that focus on "tough issues", such as mental health, or rape, or suicide, or depression. Fiction is a means of escape for me, and reading those difficult (yet SO significant) issues makes me incredibly discouraged and sad, no matter the outcome of the book. Girl Against the Universe is about a girl suffering from a number of mental illnesses, such as PTSD and OCD; it's also about a boy trying to figure out what's best for himself, and not what everyone else wants from him. I honestly wasn't all that interested in this book, because I thought it would be on those typical heavy YA contemporary novels that I try to avoid. But, I'm glad I gave the book a shot, because I did like it a lot.

I'm counting this as this month's Pili-Pushed novel, even though I downloaded the book from Edelweiss before needing a push... I've read Stokes' other five novels, and for the most part, liked them. To see other Pili-Pushed recommendations, click on the "Pili-Pushed" tag!

Maguire is convinced that her mere presence puts people in danger. Years ago, she was in a car accident in which her father (the driver), uncle, and older brother died, but she did not get hurt at all. A series of extraordinary events followed, in which everyone but Maguire was hurt in some way. Maguire doesn't like to use public transportation, or being in a car with others. She constantly checks for potential hazards, and has all kinds of good luck charms and rituals. She's been doing great, no accidents lately; she's also been a granite wall to her therapist. But meeting Jordy changes everything for Maguire. Can she trust herself to be around him, or is her bad luck going to strike once again?

Maguire is a strange girl, as we see from the very first chapter. We meet Maguire in her therapist's office, in which she is dodging his questions and being cryptic and not talkative and basically wasting everyone's time. Leaving the session, she meets the therapist's next patient, a boy who won't tell her who he is, but wants her to help him with his therapy session "homework". As it would turn out, he's Jordy, a famous junior tennis player, and guess what else? Maguire had decided to join the tennis team (she used to play), as part of her goals (she isolates herself, so joining the tennis team is a huge step for her). She and Jordy becomes friends.

I liked Maguire almost immediately. I was a tiny bit surprised because often I'll be frustrated with the protagonist of a YA contemporary "tough issues" novel, but I really felt for Maguire. She has all these coping mechanisms in the form of good luck charms, and she selectively blames herself for things out of her control. Logically, you're probably thinking, that's ridiculous! I would probably be thinking that too; but you can really see Maguire's state of mind, and understand what she's thinking and why. I think Stokes did a really good job of making Maguire who she is, and in an authentic and interesting way.

Our other protagonist, Jordy, is equally as complex and strange and interesting. This book is told from Maguire's first-person POV, but we get to experience Jordy's character development parallel to Maguire's. Jordy is a tennis star whose parents dictate every aspect of his life. He's a people pleaser, so he doesn't fight it. But he's been seeing the therapist because he feels like "tennis Jordy" and "real Jordy" are two completely different personalities, and he doesn't know who he really is. Seeing Jordy work through his problems (familial and otherwise) is just as wonderful as seeing Maguire do the same. Both characters have been through so much, and work hard to overcome.

Did I mention that this book isn't as heavy as you'd think? Don't get me wrong, Stokes really REALLY captured PTSD and OCD, and portrayed the illnesses not how one would think (OCD isn't just straightening pages or matching corners). But the book wasn't constantly bogged down by tragic and heartbreaking event after tragic and heartbreaking event. Maguire's (and Jordy's) story is quite uplifting, with plenty of mountains and valleys.

Of course there is a little romance in this book! Maguire and Jordy are cute and sweet together. Maguire doesn't think she's ready for a relationship, and she's also heard certain things about Jordy. But I like how Jordy is a totally *real* guy; he's also very straightforward and tells her he likes her as more than a friend (in my experience, guys are not so direct). Jordy is a sweetie, a patient and kind person who probably gives nice guys. I love this pair!

Tennis! My favorite sport (well, it's a tie with soccer). I love seeing sports play a big role in YA novels, especially featuring a female athlete protagonist (and in this book, also a male one). Maguire is pretty hardcore! Not as hardcore as Jordy though. Being a huge tennis fan, I loved following all the tennis speak!

Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with this book. Of Stokes' three books, this would be my favorite. Of the author's six books (three of which are under her pen name), it'd probably be tied with Starling (I REALLY liked Starling). My next Stokes book is Vicarious!

What I Did Not Like:

This could totally just be me, but I thought the climax was a little cliche? Maybe cliche is a bad word for what I'm thinking. Like, the climax just seemed like one of those scenes that unfolds and you're just like, of COURSE that happens, because duh, it just happened to be that way... it seemed way too obvious of a climax and I'm kind of disappointed that the author took that route. But this is a small (Alyssa) thing; I think the climax worked with the story, but it seemed cliche.

Would I Recommend It:

If you like YA contemporary, I'd recommend this book. I don't like and recommend too many YA tough-issue contemporary novels, so I'd like to say that it probably means something, that I'm recommending this book. *nudges*


4 stars. A cute, not-so-heavy, important novel on making your own destiny and taking the reins of your life. I'd love to read an epilogue featuring Jordy and Maguire!
Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,728 reviews1,279 followers
March 21, 2016
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.)

“Bad things happen to other people when I’m around.” I sigh. “It’s like I’m bad luck.”

This was a YA contemporary story about a girl who believed she was bad luck to those around her.

Maguire was an okay character, and it was easy to see why she’d believe she was bad luck. To be in more than one accident where people died, and she walked away unharmed did seem a little strange, and I could understand her not wanting to get on a plane with what was left of her family just in case she caused the plane to crash.

The storyline in this was about Maguire overcoming her fears and learning to realise that maybe she could live a normal life, and wasn’t really cursed. We also got a bit of a romance brewing between Maguire and Jordy, and some tennis tournaments too.

The ending to this was pretty good, and I appreciated the little twist at the end.

6 out of 10
Profile Image for Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner).
382 reviews1,715 followers
July 30, 2016
This book was just sooooo delightful! There needs to be a proper word for something that makes your heart a little sad but equally giddy. Maybe there is a word for it? I don’t know but this book is whatever that word is. I’m sad I made my YA contemporary beach read list already because this one would have definitely been at the top — compulsively readable and just heart-melting. And YOU GUYS…one of the sweetest, swooniest dudes in YA.

I LOVED the relationship between Maguire and Jordy. So banter-y. So cute. I want you to discover it for yourself so I don’t want to say too much about it. I just loved how they met and how they opened up to each other and helped each other.

I love books that deal with grief/loss and read a lot of them but I actually really loved that this one wasn’t directly dealing with the grief and loss of losing her father and brother. I loved that it was still showing the lasting effects of losing someone especially so tragically as well as some of the other things she went through. While on the surface it seems silly that she would really think she’s cursed and live her life in the careful manner she does, it’s actually amazing what your brain convince you. I really felt for Maguire especially because I could relate. After my mom passed away from brain cancer in 2006 I convinced myself I was dying or that I was going to die. Like some days I just laid in bed so scared of dying. It really hit pretty personally how one can hold themselves back from living because of a fear and belief so tight within your gut that no matter the logic people try to use on you you just can’t shake it.

I think the shining star of this novel is how positively therapy is portrayed. Honestly I wish I had this book after my mom passed away because maybe I would have gotten the help that I needed to deal with my issues. Watching Maguire put in that work and do these scary assignments, that to others would seem easy, was just wonderful. I really enjoyed watching her (and Jordy) tackle them even though they were hard. I really loved that therapy wasn’t just a convenient plot thing for her and Jordy but I really felt like the author showed how important it was for her.
Profile Image for Stacee.
2,711 reviews703 followers
April 20, 2016
By now we all know that I'm quite picky about my contemps. I was lucky enough to read an early MS of this and then got to read it again officially for review.

I love Maguire and Jordy. They're strong for each other and so supportive. I loved reading them work through the shrink challenges and figure life out. Penn and Jade were awesome friends and I could easily read a companion book about either of them. And don't get me started on Dr. Hottie...

The plot was captivating. I celebrated the highs and was broken-hearted over the lows right along with Maguire. And I was rooting for her right from the beginning.

Overall, it was an important and serious book without being stuffy and textbook-y. I loved the way Paula handled the topic and sincerely believe this is the best thing she's written so far.

**Huge thanks to Harper Teen and Edelweiss for providing the arc in exchange for an honest review**

**Squishy hugs to Paula for letting me beta read for her and then sending me an arc for my collection**
Profile Image for Sara ➽ Ink Is My Sword.
560 reviews420 followers
September 4, 2017
3.5 Mental heatlh Stars

BONUS: Logic-Anziety 🎵 🎵

Dear everyone, I present you a book where mental health is the main topic and it stays focused on it. *Round of applause*👏 👏 THANK YOU THANK YOU We follow the main character in her therapy with her psychologist during months, and is so realistic. I mean finally there is just not a small appearance of some random dude or woman to say they are a "psychological" help to the MC, once in the whole book, and for the MC just to babble how much they hate shrinks.

Maguire believes she is the definition of unlucky in the world, bringing tragedies to anyone coming near her. I mean I would probably have similar sentiments after all the episodes she had to go through. The whole point of the therapy is for her to be able to manage her fears and be able to hop into an airplane and travel. Here is when Jordy is introduced as a helper and potentially, of course, her romantic interest as well. Now wait a minute I can already hear your questions rumbling in my room, IS THIS ANOTHER CLICHÉ STORY WERE THE LOVE INTEREST MIRACOUSLY CURES THE MAIN CHARACTER? No! It was exactly the opposites, yes he does help her with her therapy homework so she can hopefully get better, but he never pressures her to do something without her consent, and Maguire never does cure, she improves certainly, but not magically. Which I appreciated, because is fairly real. I was a fan of the romance, it was so cute and romantic, both of the characters were so unique.

My problem was boredom, everything got a little predictable and repetitive at some point. You could guess the plot points, and most of the books were, she going to the psychologist, she playing tennis, or she is with Jordy.

I loved how psychology was so essential throughout the whole book, as well as the fact that the main character was so analytical of herself, I could deeply relate to that. Family relations were so sweet, the developments were nice, especially the relationship with her stepdad.

I am pretty sure she had agoraphobic tendencies, anxiety, PTSD, and OCD.

Problems on keep his true self, over what his career and parents wanted for him.

Overall an enjoyable read for a summer afternoon and if you are looking for good mental health and psychological treatment representation.
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,126 reviews2,164 followers
June 24, 2016
Stokes is one of those authors who can write anything. The light tone of this, combined with the deep and thoughtful subject matter (not to mention stellar romance) really reminded me of her debut, The Art of Lainey, which is an absolute favorite of mine. I think this might even be better.

Girl Against the Universe is about Maguire, a girl who believes she's cursed. Ever since she became the sole survivor in a car accident which killed her father, uncle, and older brother, Maguire has kept to herself. She has a "Luck Journal" in which she chronicles all the events in which she has escaped unscathed while those around her suffer. The only commonality that Maguire can find is herself so, she does the only reasonable thing and withdraws into herself.

Our story begins, though, in a therapist's office. I loved how Stokes chose to tell Maguire's story through her challenges with therapy. Maguire not only believes that she's bad luck, but she has OCD tendencies in which she watches for accidents that could happen around her and surrounds herself with "lucky" objects. It's heart-breaking. I was instantly rooting for Maguire to battle her inner demons and her journey throughout this novel is phenomenal. It's realistic, paced well, and most importantly it stems entirely from Maguire. It isn't motivated by romance or fear or any other type of catalyst. Maguire has her goals and no matter how hard they are or how many times she fails, she picks herself back up and tries again. I love this girl.

I particularly want to point out that Girl Against the Universe breaks down so many barriers and stigmas in YA. Not only against mental illness, but it also defeats the trope of mean-girl-cliques and girls-"competing"-for-a-guy (all silly, absolutely false constructions with no basis in truth but somehow we all think that these are the "norm"). Maguire joins the tennis team and while some members seem hostile at first, the situation isn't at all what it seems on the surface and my heart gave a little leap of joy every time Maguire opened herself up to someone new. Moreover, Maguire isn't the only character struggling with a mental illness of some sort and I liked that she had someone to talk to about her challenges and didn't feel isolated the way so many teens can feel (and how she did feel for so long).

The guy in question is none other than junior tennis star Jordy and their friendship won me over even more than their romance did. Jordy is such a sweetheart. He's not a perfect guy--there are rumors flying around him from the start and he's had his fair share of mistakes--but he respects Maguire and doesn't push her, instead taking baby steps until she's comfortable with him. I enjoyed how their relationship played out with minimal drama and lots of honest, open dialogue. Plus, Jordy's presence isn't solely to be the romantic interest or Maguire's therapy buddy, it's also to show that there are more than one type of mental illness. Jordy struggles with staying true to himself in the face of his fame and fortune and I think a lot of teenagers struggle with the first part of that and can really relate to Jordy. I know I could.

Gosh, this book is just so good. I want everyone to read it. It has fantastic friendships, a swoon-worthy romance, step-fathers who slowly become allies, families who become support systems, and a kick-ass heroine who overcomes her own fears. Girl Against the Universe is inspiring and wonderfully written and, perhaps best of all, you'll learn some tennis from it. I hope now I won't be among the few readers who actually watches tennis with an equal passion as I read books. (Note: key word being watch.)
Profile Image for Kristin Hackett (Merrily Kristin).
214 reviews3,654 followers
February 17, 2017
Originally posted on Super Space Chick:

Personal Thoughts: I had been wanting to read Girl Against the Universe since it’s debut, largely due to the gorgeous cover. I’m not really a fan of the color orange but this beautifully illustrated tennis court just works for me. And I love that Maguire is strewn across the corner, looking like she’s given up on everyone and everything. I knew going into it that Maguire believes she’s bad luck, but I was never expecting to find a character that I personally relate to as much as I do to her. Maguire suffers from anxiety (with a slightly different thought process than mine manifests in) and “listening” in on her therapy sessions with Dr. Leed was an added bonus for my own personal mental health.

Plot Summary: In Girl Against the Universe, our main character Maguire believes she’s bad luck. She would rather just stay home and far away from other people because she doesn’t want anything bad to happen to them on her account. She is the survivor of several accidents which is where her fear stems from and after her most recent mishap, she moves with her mom, stepdad and step-siblings to a new town in California for a fresh start. Her mom pays for a preset amount of therapy sessions with Dr. Leed and it’s there that Maguire meets Jordy, another one of Dr. Leed’s patients with his own set of issues.

Critique: I can’t even pick a favorite thing about this book because I loved the entire thing so deeply so I’ll just start explaining why. Girl Against the Universe is not a girl with mental illness meets boy and then suddenly everything is better story. Maguire and Jordy are each dealing with their own set of very unique issues and the book shows the two of them working through things on their own and with each other. Maguire never lets Jordy push her into anything she’s not ready for. With Dr. Leed’s help, she comes up with a list of challenges to try to push herself into being more social and experiencing the world instead of sitting home while life happens around her. As it turns out, Jordy is something of a niche celebrity. He’s by no means super famous but he’s well known enough that he’s used to girls using him for his notoriety and access to fancy parties. His parents have a one track mind when it comes to his future and until now, Jordy has been on board even though it’s not necessarily what he really wants out of life. The friendship that he and Maguire form is incredibly adorable and I like that they’re able to find strength within themselves as a result of their relationship. Also notable are the amazing and unlikely friends Maguire makes along the way. They’re supportive and helpful and I just want to give them a big hug. I also loved the family aspect of the story. Maguire has a complicated relationship with her stepfather and she hasn’t told her mother all the details of her mental illness. As the story progresses, there are some pretty heartwarming family moments and your heart is sure to melt.

Do I Recommend?: Yes! Girl Against the Universe is a new favorite for me, particularly for the relatability factor when it comes to anxiety. This book means so much to me. To see something that I’ve experienced portrayed so accurately and without any negative connotations, is more than I ever could’ve wished for. I’m so happy there is a substantial backlist of Paula Stokes books that I have to look forward to reading!
Profile Image for Pili.
1,164 reviews216 followers
May 24, 2016
Girl Against The Universe is the kind of contemporary that I can re-read time and again and love it as much or even than I did the first time!

Contemporary YA is not my go to genre, but since I'd read anything that Paula Stokes would wrote and her first contemporary was absolutely therapeutic for me (The Art of Lainey), GATU was a must read and it delivered in every which way.

It's what I call a "feel good" book, there's conflict, there's serious issues but there's no overabundance of drama and there's no unnecessarily added conflict. There's wonderful relationships, from family to friends to a developing new romantic relationship but none of them are really the focus or maybe all of them are. All the relationships are important in this books, and all of them help Maguire to finally get fighting to try and get better.

Mental health is an important issue to discuss and although not all cases are equally dire or grave, they all deserve attention and treatment. This book does a fantastic job on showing up different levels of mental health issues and different stages of acceptance of help and progress of treatment, as well as a positive depiction of therapy, along with the false starts, the progress, the doubts and the reality of humans "not being toasters that can be fixed".

Maguire had a lot of bad things happen to her and she came to think that she was cursed and was a danger to others, so she kept herself from interacting with the rest of the world as much as she could. The book starts with her first therapy sessions where she starts by being silent and thinking it's a waste of time, to start listening to what her therapist has to say and once she finally decides she want to try and face her fears, we see how she makes progress, how there are setbacks and doubts and we're there with her every step of the way.

The romance in this book is the kind that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and it adds to the "feel good" feeling of the book. And no, the romance doesn't mean the mental health issues are fixed by finding love or anything of the like. The characters do provide support and motivation for each other, first as friends and then as more, but they both have their own issues to face on their own, and they do. The relationship is not a crutch to make everything better.

This book managed to make me laugh, sigh, swoon, want to hug the characters, tear up more than once and upon finishing I procedeed to hug the book and have a contented smile on my face. I've re-read it quite a few times already, and it will be one of my go-to books when I'm on a slump and I need a favourite to make me want to read again!

Very much deserved 5 stars if not a few more!!
Profile Image for Wendy Darling.
1,576 reviews33.9k followers
April 25, 2016
3.5 I liked this story, and it does a lot of things very well.

-- The book portrays coping mechanisms (with grief and life in general) and mental health issues believably, as well as therapy in a positive, healthy way.

-- It shows school routines, extra-curricular activities, and kids actually thinking about and planning for their futures. This was a huge part of my life as a teenager so I'm always surprised that it takes such a back seat in most YA books.

-- The relationships are solid: girl friendships/distrusts, Maguire and her mom, and Maguire and her stepdad especially

-- Jordy is a solid guy and I liked that they helped each other with their therapy goals, in a way that didn't feel like a big deal. They are nice together, and there are some cute moments between them.

But I think that's where I got stuck about halfway through--the story/central romance is "nice,' but it somehow lacked a certain spark, a zing that would make your heart sing for them. And while the pacing was fine at first, the methodical manner in which therapy and life and outings progressed eventually felt a little slow, especially with an even keel of feeling throughout most of it.

So...it's a solid book, but not one I quite loved. I really liked Stokes' LIARS, INC. and THE ART OF LAINEY, though, and she's still on my "always check out her latest" list.

Besides, finding out about California burritos is very exciting. Burritos stuffed with French fries?! I'm intrigued. ALSO. As I was reading it, a character named Pili popped up and I immediately thought of my blogger friend Pili--and then I was tickled to find the character was named after her! So fun.

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.
Profile Image for Jaime Arkin.
1,422 reviews1,326 followers
February 1, 2016
Definitely 4.5 stars

I think that this might be my new favorite book from Paula Stokes and not so much because of the story, though I really enjoyed that… more because of the characters that Stokes has created! I really found myself enjoying Maguire’s journey.

To set the stage for you, Maguire has had more bad luck in her short time on earth than many of us do in a lifetime. The loss of her brother, father and uncle in a car accident where she was the only survivor… or the rollercoaster ride that jumped the tracks and everyone got injured but her… all indications to her that she is the worst kind of luck. So she’s changed her life… a once happy and out-going child, she starts to hide herself away… no one can get hurt if she isn’t around, and she’s acquired some obsessive tendencies that are really impairing her life as well.

With the help of her doctor she’s hoping to make some leaps to move past some of the things that have limited her with the ultimate goal of being able to get on a plane and head to Ireland to celebrate the lives of the family members she lost. She wants to do it not only for her, but to show her mother that she can get past this and that she is strong enough.

Jordy has his own set of problems, though maybe not as extreme as Maguire’s are, he struggles constantly. With a super controlling mom and a chance to go pro for tennis, he’s constantly trying to make everyone around him happy even if that means giving up the things he wants for himself.

By chance Jordy and Maguire happen to see the same doctor and after passing each other in the reception room, Jordy takes a chance and introduces himself. I have to admit that I loved the way Jordy just kind of plopped himself into Maguire’s life from the very beginning and unknowingly pushed her boundaries. And even though I was frustrated that Maguire hesitated and didn’t just dive right into anything with him, upon reflection it made the story even better because you get to see this friendship build right alongside the hints of a romance.

Jordy and Maguire set out to work on tasks that their doctor has assigned to them together. For Jordy, it’s spending time with someone who doesn’t know his tennis personality… for Maguire it’s getting in a car with someone other than her mom, or taking back something the universe took from her. All steps to help her realize that she isn’t the bad luck charm she’s convinced herself she is and that bad things don’t necessarily happen because she is there.

I absolutely loved the growth that Maguire has in this story. It was gratifying to see her conquer her fears and make friends and step outside her comfort zone to do it and Stokes did a great job of fostering the friendships in this story. It could have been so easy to make one of these characters your typical mean girl, but it was entirely refreshing to see her not go that route.

If you’re looking for a story of triumph and overcoming fears… a story filled with laughter and swoons… a story filled with friendship and romance, then look no further. Girl Against The Universe is exactly what you need to pick up.

This book is just one more reason why I will read anything by Paula Stokes and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Thank you to the publisher for having this out at ALAMW so I could grab a copy and thank you delayed flights for giving me the time to dive in and read it so quickly!
Profile Image for Vikki.
271 reviews48 followers
February 12, 2017
This was my first Uppercase book and I was a little nervous about it since I usually avoid teenage romance novels like the plague but I was intrigued by the mental illness side of this story. Maguire is a black cat. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong around her. And she is a klutz. She tries to do certain rituals to keep bad things from happening but obviously that doesn't always work so she avoids going outside and social activities when at all possible. She feels like she is to blame for the accident that killed her dad, brother and uncle but left her unscathed. She wants to accept an invitation to visit her grandparents and her dad's relatives in Ireland but she is afraid that she will cause something horrible to happen like the plane crashing. Her therapist helps her set goals to get her to the point where she could take this trip and one of the goals is to join a sports team. She joins the tennis team at school and is surprised to see that the guy that has been chatting her up in the therapist's waiting room is the tennis team's assistant coach and a professional tennis player named Jordy. As Jordy and Maguire's relationship grows, they help each other change their lives and grow into more functional, healthy people. I really appreciated how the author made the characters so down-to-earth and relatable that it made it easier to understand and relate to the situations and feelings they were having that some people may have a hard time understanding, especially relating to mental illness and PTSD.

I gave this book a 4 out of 5 on Goodreads.
Profile Image for Sara (sarabara081).
672 reviews334 followers
November 2, 2017
May 2016 -
I first read Girl Against the Universe in 2015 under the working title, Bad Luck Charm. It was in the very early stages but I instantly adored the characters and the story. Re-reading the final version a year later has been such an experience. I’m not a huge rereader but this was a whole different experience because the story had evolved. Details are not my thing so a year in between reads left it a little hard to pinpoint all the specific changes but a few definitely stood out. Once I picked up my new copy the excitement came back to me. Everything felt smoother and more refined. The flow had changed. And even though the specific details were fuzzy, I could feel the difference in the vibe. I honestly didn’t think I could love it more than I did the first go around.

What I enjoyed the most was the journey the main character Maguire makes. She is suffering from PTSD after a traumatic accident that took 3 family members away from her. It has deeply affected her ability to do everyday things like driving in cars and socializing with others. She had connected a few bad events that happened in her life and rationalized that she was the cause. So we watch her journey as she works through her problems and meets a cute boy along the way. Jordy was quite amazing and I adored these two together, but I appreciated that this really was Maguire’s tale and her problems were things she needed to work on for herself.

The secondary characters were amazing as well! I already mentioned my love for Jordy but I also really loved Maguire’s new tennis friend, Jade. Speaking of characters, I had the privilege of naming a character or two, or kinda three! I wasn’t sure at first what name I would go with and what minor character I’d mess with from the original draft. But when I saw Maguire had a little brother named ‘Jacob’ and also a little sister with a name that started with an ‘E’ it felt obvious to me. So I named the little sister after my daughter, Erin. My middle child is Jacob so it fit real well. Two of my kids in the book! Paula, being the amazing person she is, decided to add one more so all three of my children were represented. So later on in the novel you meet ‘Shawn’.

I cannot recommend this novel enough. If you enjoy well written characters, life journeys, and cute romances this is definitely the book for you!

First Read May 2015 - I was lucky enough to read an early draft of this one! Even though I know the story will undergo many edits and changes until its release, I adored the plot and heart of the story and characters. I look forward to reading the finished copy and seeing how far the book came in its journey from start to finish. :)
Profile Image for Melanie.
106 reviews74 followers
December 28, 2015
When I finished this book I couldn't stop hugging it. Such an inspiring and powerful story!
Profile Image for Giselle.
1,057 reviews907 followers
November 28, 2016
A wonderfully written contemporary story about a teenage girl who suffers from OCD and PTSD from the deaths of her family members. I loved that it showed therapy in such a positive and productive way. What I found most refreshing was that the main character became brave and chose to fix her problems herself. I also just love her friends and her family. And the love interest wasn't too bad either. This was such a positive book and such a quick read!
Profile Image for Becca Fowler (PivotBookTotes).
74 reviews127 followers
January 3, 2016
New favorite Paula Stokes book. Full of heart, swoons, best friends, laughter, and some tears. Loved the characters, their backstories, the underlying message, and the unique plot line. Mark your calendars for May, folks. You NEED this one!!! Take my word for it.
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,077 reviews373 followers
December 7, 2018
Ahoy there me mateys! Now I am not a big YA contemporary fan. When I read YA, I tend to read sci-fi or fantasy books. Occasionally I will read some historical fiction. But I have to admit that the cover for this one is what drew me in:

Something about how she is sprawled on the court just made me laugh. Plus the title is silly. The premise of the book is that a teen named Maguire knows she is cursed. Bad things keep happening and the only common denominator happens to be her. So she tries to stay away from other people at all costs and fears to get close to anyone. Her mom sends her to a new therapist for help. I read this book hoping to have a fun, light-hearted read and ended up with a deeper read than I expected.

It begins with Maguire’s therapy sessions and then slowly branches out to the rest of her life. Maguire is obviously suffering from PTSD and has repetitive coping behaviors. She is utterly convinced of her curse. But with her therapist’s help she comes up with a series of personal challenges to work through her fears and help her accomplish the goal of going on a trip with her mother that involves flying. I absolutely loved that therapy is shown in a positive light. Maguire’s therapist uses cognitive behavioral therapy in a non-cookie cutter approach.

One of the challenges is to join a tennis team. It is here that the book shines. Part of that is because the author sets up characters that seem stereotypical – like the hot evil jock girl and then upsets yer expectations. I loved that these teens did have some depth to them. At the same time the characters were also light and fun. Maguire’s friendships ended up being one of the highlights of the book. A lot of the humor in the book shines in these moments.

I thought Maguire was a great protagonist and I really did care about her journey to towards improvement. Her relationship with Jordy was sweet and he ended up being kinda adorable. I thought the trope used would annoy me but it ended up being fine. I did appreciate that friendship became the focus of their relationship.

I also liked that Maguire’s relationship towards her mom and step-dad highlighted some lovely bonding moments. Maguire learns that her perceptions of them weren’t accurate. Grown-ups have fears and worries too. Also Maguire’s mom learns that her daughter has been keeping things from her and how this is handled was deftly done. It was realistic and wonderful.

I am not saying that this book is perfect. Maguire does manage to overcome her fears in a very short time-frame with many challenges being met on the first try. The boy she likes does happen to be a bit too perfect for her and she needs his help to “fix” her problems. In general, all the parents overall are too absent. And the friendships and adjustments to Maguire’s new life sometimes seemingly fall right into place.

And yet the humor, characters, and writing kept me engaged. I thought that this was a very fun read and yet also a thoughtful one as well. I got more than I expected from this one and so that was cool. I am glad I took a chance on this contemporary. Arrr!

Check out me other reviews at https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordp...
Profile Image for Heidi.
1,395 reviews153 followers
August 2, 2017
Four and a half stars: A delightful YA contemp that tackles some important topics.

Maguire is convinced she is bad luck, and no matter how many good luck charms she carries, or five second danger sweeps she performs or rituals she carries out, the universe still conspires against her. It all started back when she was eleven when a car crash claimed the lives of Maguire's father, uncle and brother. Maguire was miraculously spared with only a few scratches. Then consider the roller coaster accident when the coaster veered off the tracks, injuring everyone, but Maguire. Maguire knows that bad luck follows her, and so she prefers to be alone and to stay away from others. She meticulously notes all the bad things that happen when she is around in her luck notebook, to prove she has bad luck.Things begin to change for Maguire when she starts therapy and meets a nice boy in the waiting room. With the help of her therapist and her new found friend, Maguire sets therapy goals and attempts to take her life back from the universe. Will she succeed?
What I Liked:
*I have been struggling with YA contemps the last couple of years, so I am hesitant to pick one up. Thankfully, Girl Against the Universe was just what I needed. This is a wonderful book with an adorable romance. It follows two teens who are both trying to overcome their own issues. I loved the friendship, the romance, the growth and the focus on family. If you have been let down by YA contemps, this is the one to grab. I loved it!
*The book centers around Maguire, a young teen who is convinced she is cursed by bad luck. She is suffering from a combination of PTSD(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). She prefers to be alone as she can't stand the thought of anyone else getting hurt around her. She won't ride in cars with anyone but her mother and she avoided public transportation. At the beginning of the book, Maguire is starting therapy, and at first, she is reluctant to open up and talk to her therapist. Thankfully, she meets Jordy in the waiting room and the two become friends. Maguire begins to set goals and slowly transform. I loved watching her tackle her fears and conquer her goals one step at a time. It was inspiring to see her change. If you are like me and you enjoy books where the main character undergoes a dramatic transformation for the better, you will love this one. I adored Maguire, I couldn't help but to cheer her on.
*Jordy is Maguire's partner in crime. He is popular, a bit famous and adorable, and he has a terrific sense of humor. Yet, he is also struggling with his own issues. He wants to balance the public image of himself with his true self, and stand up to his parents and take control of his own life. I loved seeing him work with Maguire, and I especially loved how kind and patient he was with her, especially when it came to her issues. He is totally swoon worthy.
*Speaking of swoon worthy, the romance is indeed swoon worthy. It is a slow burner that starts out as a hesitant acquaintance before moving into a friendship. It is fragile at first as both parties must learn to trust and to open up. Over time, it blossoms into something more, and in the end, it is sweet and satisfying and just right.
*I loved the strong focus on family. I appreciated that Maguire's family was very involved in her life. I adored the new found relationship Maguire formed with her step dad, it made me smile.
*I enjoyed the cast of secondary characters. From Maguire's family to her new friends. Jade was fun, and encouraging, Kimber ended up surprising me, and I thought Penn was terrific. The therapist, Daniel, was also a surprise as he wasn't uptight and stuffy. I loved that the characters were real and fun. Loved this cast.
*This book tackles some important issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I appreciated the depth and detail regarding these mental illnesses, and I liked going through the process with Maguire as she worked to overcome them. I was thrilled to discover the author's note at the end where Ms. Stokes discusses these disorders, and that she provided details on how those who might be suffering with a mental illness can find help. I complain time and time again after reading an issue book that there isn't further information for readers at the end. Big props to Ms. Stokes for including this.
*Don't shy away from this thinking it is a dramatic, angst ridden issue book. Even though it tackles some strong topics, the overall tone of the book remains light and upbeat.
*The ending closes out the book in a good place without any cliffhanger or unanswered questions. A nice stand alone.
And The Not So Much:
*Even though I as pleased with the ending, I finished the book wanting more. It ends a bit abruptly. Yes, it left me smiling, but I would have loved an Epilogue a bit down the road to see how everything turned out. What can I say, when I immerse in a good story, I hate to see it end.
*One niggle I had was that I loved watching Maguire work through each of her goals and conquer her fears. Her final goal was a big one, and I hated that it was glossed over. I wanted to go through it step by step with her.
*I wished that there was just a tiny more detail on Jordy's relationship with his parents. He struggled with his mother's strict control, but I wasn't as clear on the father's role. His dad is hardly present, and I was wondering if his relationship was just as strained with his father as it was with his mother.

Girl Against the Universe is a wonderful book. This is story about conquering fears and mental illness and letting go of the past. I loved watching the two main characters grow and transform, and I thought the romance was fantastic. This is an absolute must read if you are looking for a good YA contemp. I highly recommend this one. I found that I was wanting more when I reached the end. Don't miss this one!

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and I was not compensated for this review.
Posted@Rainy Day Ramblings.

July 9, 2016
This book is pretty much…


I honestly have nothing critical to say about it.

First, let me say thank you to Jamie for buying it for me when I couldn't get hold of it in the UK. Also, a big thank you to Paula Stokes for the signed bookplate!

There are so many things I loved about this book. The story opens up several years after a car accident that killed Maguire's father, brother and uncle, yet left her unscathed. Soon after, she experiences other accidents that affect everyone but her. This leads Maguire to believe that she is cursed, and that it’s safer for everyone if she stays away from them. After moving to San Diego, Maguire begins seeing a therapist, which leads to her meeting incredible people and achieving more than she believed she could.

So let’s list the ways that this book kicked butt.

ONE. This book handled mental health issues in a positive and understanding way that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a book before. It was hopeful, but it was also realistic. What I particularly loved is that it didn’t feel like Stokes had picked A Diagnosis and then ticked the boxes of symptoms. Yes, there were several labels mentioned, but Maguire’s experiences were treated as unique to her, and she wasn’t That Girl With ABC. I also loved how all of her behaviours had believable rationalisation behind them. They weren’t just behaviours for the sake of behaviours. Maguire truly wanted to get better, and while she made progress, she also stumbled and regressed. The book acknowledged that, while people can learn and cope better with mental health, it’s not a straightforward, linear process, and mental health issues don’t just go away; you simply learn to live with them better.

TWO. Maguire made some amazing friends who supported her without being overbearing, and who didn’t think of her as a “freak” or “crazy”. While they didn’t push her or say she was being silly, they also didn’t ignore the issue. Personally, I find that completely ignoring an issue is almost as bad as only focusing on it. They acknowledged her feelings and didn’t make her feel lesser for them, and that is just AMAZING. I’m actually a little envious of how amazing they were!

THREE. Maguire’s family dynamics were so well done. I loved how they all so clearly loved each other, and they wanted to help one another. Sometimes, they didn’t know how to best do that, but the intentions were pure. It was also great to see Maguire learn that she wasn’t alone in her grief, and that others were going through their own processes.

FOUR. None of the characters were stereotypes. Some of them seemed that way at first, like Kimber, but they all turned out to be humans. Individuals. All doing the best they could. Some of the tidbits that made them come alive included a certain girl loving cars and basketball, another person taking an interest in an activity their other half loved to simply understand the one they loved more and Maguire being academic, a big reader AND sporty. People can be more than one thing and have more than one type of interest, and this book shows that!

FIVE. BEST FOR FREAKING LAST. Jordy. Oh my lordy, Jordy. (No, I am not ashamed of that.) Ok, yes, he did have that cocky charm that I unabashedly fall in love with in books, but I don’t think he was a stereotype. He had his two sides, and I could completely relate. I also refer to myself in different parts. But even under the famous facade, he was so genuinely wonderful. He wanted to make people happy, but like Maguire, he needed to balance that with his own happiness. Plus, the two of them were so freaking good for each other! Their relationship was so sweet, and it progressed in a glorious slow build with stumbles that I could relate to.

Side note: my mom would be ridiculously happy if I dated Jordy. She loves tennis.

The ending was beautiful, and I wish I could keep living as Maguire. And with Jordy. Why can’t this book go on forever? It got me out of a funk of my own, but now I don’t know how I’m supposed to read anything else. This is definitely going on my favourites shelf, and I will likely reread my favourite parts many times over.

Basically? READ THIS BOOK.

Profile Image for nick (the infinite limits of love).
2,120 reviews1,348 followers
June 1, 2016

I loved Girl Against the Universe so much! Paula Stokes is one of my favorite YA authors. She has an engaging writing style, and writes THE BEST characters that I’ve ever encountered. Needless to say, I was very much looking forward to reading her latest title. There was a lot about Girl Against the Universe that I loved so much so that it’s ,without any doubt, my favorite book by the author.

Girl Against the Universe is a very poignant and character-driven book. The characters in the book were the heart and soul of the story and Paula Stokes did a phenomenal job at building and enriching them, that they come alive through the pages of the book. We have Maguire, the protagonist, who is suffering from PTSD and OCD. She was a radiant character throughout the book. Because of her mental health illness, she was quiet, withdrawn, and a little doubtful about herself. The accident that killed her uncle, father and brother had left her emotionally scarred and beyond repair, according to her. She wasn’t only suffering from survivor’s guilt, but she was so focused on the idea that she was a curse because people were constantly getting hurt around her.

It was agonizing sometimes watching Maguire second-guess herself, and be bombarded by her negative thoughts. Several times throughout the book, I wanted to give her a giant hug and tell her that everything would be okay. By far my favorite element of Girl Against the Universe was Maguire’s process of healing and growth. Her character arc was not only done realistically, but it was a gratification to experience through her eyes. It wasn’t an effortless and straightforward journey, and I found that to be an authentic representation of a mental health patient’s path towards balance and happiness. She had moments of highs, when she soared and shone, and lows, when she often struggled to stand back up. My heart was bursting in pride at the determined and courageous girl she had blossomed into by the end.

As part of Maguire’s healing process, she decides to try out for the tennis team at school. This leads her to meeting many wonderful people who wound being huge support systems for her. Her growing friendship with Jade and her complicated relationships with some of the other team members were very well-written. She also meets Jordy, a renowned tennis player, who had my heart fluttering and had me swooning. I loved loved loved Jordy so much. He was going through his own identity issues and was struggling a ton from the pressure that his parents put on him, but he still managed to be such a compassionate, understanding and caring boy. He became a huge support to Maguire and together they helped each other with their therapy goals. Their slow-budding relationship was very uplifting and with all the swoony kisses, it made me fangirl pretty hard. I adored their relationship so much and I was especially glad to see that there wasn’t any misunderstanding or drama between them. They were a couple who talked to each and were very much open with other.

Maguire’s relationship with her mother and her step-father and step-siblings was also beautifully depicted in Girl Against the Universe. Maguire was very lucky in that she was surrounded by people who loved and supported her every step of the way. She had somewhat alienated them because of how difficult it was to get past the accident, and while completing her therapy challenges, she attempted to repair her broken relationships with them. It was so lovely to read a book that was so family-oriented. Since Girl Against the Universe tackles mental health issue, I also wanted to briefly mention how therapy-positive this book is. Maguire sees a therapist all throughout the book and his role in helping her become better is crucial to her own growth. Now, I don’t know how accurate this representation was, but I highly appreciated its inclusion in the book.

While undeniably Girl Against the Universe digs into some heavy themes, Paula Stokes balances them out nicely with light-hearted, funny and sweet scenes, so that it never feels like a hopeless and despairing book. I loved the invaluable message that this book had to offer and I hope everyone picks up this book at some point. This is a favorite book of the year 100%!
Profile Image for Zoe.
406 reviews938 followers
August 29, 2016

Sometimes terrible things happen and it's no one's fault. Sometimes we do the best we can and still have bad outcomes.
I read Paula Stokes' first two novels, The Art of Lainey and Liars Inc and enjoyed them, but I have to say that, in my opinion, Girl Against the Universe is Stokes' best book yet.

Maguire is insistent that she has horrible luck. Numerous incidents happen where people around Maguire get hurt - or even die. To keep the people around her safe, Maguire stays locked up in her room, day after day. But Maguire learns that if she wants her luck to change she has to face her past.

Maguire is such a relatable and well-written protagonist. She's gone through so much and it's not hard to see why she feels like she's cursed with such horrible luck. Maguire is the kind of protagonist you can't help but root for, and her mental health is written in a way that is honest and realistic.

One of the best things about Girl Against the Universe are the wonderful relationships between the characters. Maguire is shown to have a wonderful relationship with her mother and stepfather, and there's also a large emphasis on strong friendships. Every single relationship was written extremely realistically and with a surprising amount of attention to detail.

This book has it all: present familial dynamics, strong friendships, great characters, and a solid romance. If you're a fan of contemporary YA, this is not something to miss.
Sometimes you don’t realize all the things a person does for you until they aren’t there to do them anymore.
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