Girl Against the Universe – Paula Stokes – HarperTeen – Published 17 May 2016
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 thought this would be light and fluffy, about a girl whose bad luck involves paper cuts and missing the bus. But Maguire doesn’t dare go near any sort of public transport and tries to avoid people altogether after a series of severe accidents that have killed her family and injured her friends, leaving her without a scratch. This book is more about mental health than little incidents, yet still retains a sense of playfulness. It’s a romance, sports book and serious contemporary all rolled into one.
Maguire’s grief over the family she has lost and the rituals she uses to keep the people around her safe dominate her life. The book starts with Maguire in her first therapy session and a large portion of the book focuses on her setting tasks to overcome the belief that she is cursed and the reason so many bad things happen around her. It’s after each therapy session that she meets the guy waiting to go next. He forges a connection with her even when Maguire constantly rebuffs him. But she can’t deny being drawn to Jordy, who is balancing his own set of troubles but always has time for Maguire.
This was a fun book despite the numerous darker issues it discusses. I really liked the way Maguire’s concerns were handled and the way her therapy is so integral to the story. It’s a frank approach to mental health and therapy, and a really positive one at that. Tennis played a large role in the book, much more of a focus than I expected, but it brings a nice balance to the story and widens its appeal. Maguire makes some really supportive friends, family is highly valued and the romance is fun (and plenty swoony). I will have no trouble recommending this book.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Mental health, superstitions, luck, family, grief, therapy, romance, tennis, sport, friendship.
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Infrequent coarse language, s***.
Published: 17 May 2016 by HarperTeen
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 400 pages.