Friday, September 23, 2016

Review: Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

Title: Girl Against the Universe

Author: Paula Stokes

Rating: 4 Stars

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.)


  1. I really do want to read this one! I'm glad the romance was done well and didn't serve as a quick fix for mental illness, because that's never good!

  2. LOL! I watch it as well since I tend to treat the ball like a baseball and wack it out of the park. :) But I digress...

    This sounds SO good! I have this author on my must read list and haven't read one by her yet. Yet. :) I also love the sound of the characters, but especially the sound of how the families come together. I think I need a book like that about now. Brilly review as always!! Have a great weekend!

  3. I completely agree 100% Keertana. This was absolutely amazing. I love the balance of friendship, romantic, and familial relationships - that's so hard to do, but Stokes managed it perfectly. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

  4. Aww tennis, I even went to tennis camp once. But everything is forgotten now.

    And the book sounds amazing

  5. Oh, I loved this one, too. The friendships and family support system is wonderful - a change from the YA ordinary. The romance is most definitely swoon worthy!

  6. ugh oops I picked up The Art of Lainey after so many lovely reviews, but have not read it yet. Glad to hear the author is going strong with her second book, its always so nice to encounter someone who can handle so many subjects so well!

  7. It's great to see that you had such a great time there! THanks for the discovery I didn't know about this one

  8. I've heard so many great things about Stokes writing and how she goes above and beyond with her stories. I'm glad that I bought a copy of this after one of my friends really ended up loving this too. I think I need to make time for a binge read of Stokes book asap! Lovely review as always! :)

  9. I had issues with The Art of Lainey, so I'm not sure this would work for me. I'm happy to hear you enjoyed it, Keertana! Wonderful review! :)

  10. I'm really looking forward to reading this one. I've heard nothing but good things about it.

    Karen @For What It's Worth

  11. I've heard nothing but amazing things about this one Keertana, and I have a copy on my shelf just begging me to read it! The romance sounds like one I'm absolutely going to love, and it makes me happy that this story portrays female relationships as something other than something out of Mean Girls:) Can't wait to read!

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