Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Title: Girl Against the Universe
Author: Paula Stokes
Series: stand-alone
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: May 17, 2016
Source: ARC received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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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.

I've admired Paula Stoke's work since she was writing as Fiona Paul for Paper Lantern Lit, but I have to admit that the contemporary stories she's written under her own name are among my favorites. Her characters are refreshing and genuine and I just love the journey Paula takes them on. I'm not sure if I love Maguire and Jordy as much as Lainey and Micah yet, but this is only my first read-through. ;-)

If it wasn't for bad luck, Maguire wouldn't have any luck at all. This girl thinks she's Cursed, and it's easy to see why, when she's the sole survivor of one near-death experience after another. Maguire can't see just how fortuitous her own survival is, though, because she's convinced that she's bringing bad luck to anyone she comes into contact with. Which is why her mom insists she go to therapy, where she meets Jordy, the solution to all her problems...she just doesn't know it yet.

I liked the juxtaposition of Maguire's therapy sessions with her therapy "homework" with Jordy. I enjoyed seeing their progress toward their eventual goals through these challenges, to see how they affected each other and then how that was reflected in Maguire's visits to her therapist. This was probably the most positive portrayal of therapy I've read in a young adult novel, at least in some time. I also liked the author's note about the therapy and what changes she made just to fit it into the constraints of the novel, as well.

Jordy challenges Maguire to be a better version of herself, to stop hiding from the world at large on the off-chance that something is going to happen to those around her. There's definite chemistry there, but each has their own reasons for taking things slow, most especially Maguire. That didn't keep me from swooning the entire time.

Other aspects I enjoyed: all the tennis because I played in high school and I miss it. The family dynamic because it isn't perfect but even the stepdad is involved and that's kind of rare to see in YA. Friends -- and frienemies -- who aren't cliched stereotypes. No mean girls for the sake of being mean. And a twist at the ending that I partially saw coming but not until something else happened right near the end. I LOVE SURPRISES!!! =D

This was one of those stories where I pretty much smiled from beginning to end. There are obviously some less-than-happy moments, especially where Maguire's history comes into play, but it was just such a genuinely heartwarming story. When we were sick last week, I let my daughter go to my TBR pile and pick my next read based on the title and cover, and I'm so glad she chose this one. What a very surprising and pleasant way to spend a sick day!

GIF it to me straight:
Yeah, it was kinda like that: surprise slo-mo hit to the heart.

About the author:

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.

Find Paula:

Website | TwitterFacebookGoodreads


  1. I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't read a single Paula Stokes book before. This one sounds really good, though.

    1. I don't think you can go wrong with any of her books, honestly. :)

  2. I definitely want to read this!! It's one of my MUSTs for this year. Glad you liked it. I love books that make me smiley :)

    1. Me, too! I need more books like this. Not that I mind the ones that make me feel otherwise, but smiley books are the best. =) I hope you love it when you get to it!

  3. Hahah that gif!!! I LOVE The Art of Lainey, it's one of my favorite contemps, so I'm pretty excited to read GATU. I'm glad you enjoyed it, it sounds like a wonderful book. And your review is great. I played tennis in high school too! Hope I enjoy the book too :)

    1. Ah! The Art of Lainey is one of my favorites, too! I'm pretty picky about contemps, too. It really was kind of adorable. :) I hope you love it when you get a chance to read it!


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