Published: May 17th, 2016 by HarperTeen
Source: Traded (hardcover)
Maguire is bad luck.Honestly, I don't know that I have much to say about this besides: READ IT. IT IS LOVELY AND I WANT YOU TO READ IT.
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.
This was actually my first Paula Stokes book and I can promise you I'm going to be reading the rest of them. Maguire is terrified of crowds. Of being in a car with anyone who isn't her mother. She can go to school but she's constantly looking all around her for potential hazards, because she thinks that wherever she is, there's also pain and danger - but for other people, not her. And that's what she's always worried about: other people getting hurt just because she's around them. Her father and brother were killed in an accident she escaped unscathed from, and again a few years later there was a roller coaster crash where she was the only one left uninjured.
Naturally, this means she avoids being around people as much as possible. She struggles with mental illness, with PTSD and OCD, and what I really loved is that Paula Stokes portrays this in a way that really lets you understand Maguire without going to a deep and dark place that makes you miserable. I know some people do like that, but honestly, I don't like the heavier stuff. Maguire's struggles aren't written the way that The Last Time We Say Goodbye or some other YA's are, but that's why I liked it. I didn't cry. (Until the author's note and acknowledgments, but MOVING ON.) Girl Against the Universe is full of fun and hope and healing without dragging me down into a bad headspace, if you know what I mean?
We see a lot of Maguire in therapy, which I loved. I know that it doesn't work out for everyone but it was such a positive portrayal and Maguire really started to challenge herself. And I loved that it showed that you don't have to be contemplating suicide, you don't have to be at what others may perceive was "rock bottom" to seek help and really benefit from it. Your struggles and your illness are still just as valid.
Also, tennis! Lots of tennis. I've never been into it but I never found myself bored or wanting to skim through the tennis parts, and it's really instrumental in Maguire's progress. And, of course, it's the sport that Jordy plays so it's a nice common point between him and Maguire.
And the thing is, Jordy's in therapy too. They're both working to get better and they're both helping each other in so many ways without it being too codependent and unhealthy. Their relationship is built on friendship and honesty and it was so sweet and THINKING ABOUT THIS BOOK JUST MAKES ME SO HAPPY.
And! I can't forget! Family. Maguire's mom is so supportive and understanding and Maguire's relationship with her stepfather starts to grow too and IT'S ALL SO CUTE AND NICE AND I LOVE IT ALL.
tl;dr: Girl Against the Universe is such a positive portrayal of dealing with mental illness and developing relationships and EVERYTHING ABOUT IT MAKES ME HAPPY. 4.5 stars.