Review: Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes


Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: May 17, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 382
Goodreads || Book Depository

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 roller coaster 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 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 may be harder than she thought.


4 stars

I enjoyed this contemporary novel so, so much! It was a really fun and uplifting read that’s also kind of perfect for summer. I thoroughly enjoyed the friendships, romance and character development in this story.

Girl Against the Universe follows Maguire, a girl who may be cursed. Bad things tend to happen to people when Maguire is around. As a result of a few too many incidents, including one that killed her father, uncle and older brother, Maguire has distanced herself from the world and developed OCD. She’s unable to take public transport or be in public/crowded areas without feeling anxious and typically avoids being around people by staying in her own room. However, when her grandmother decides to hold an event to commemorate the 5 year anniversary of the death of Maguire’s family members, she decides to take treatment seriously in order to overcome her fears. She ends up joining the school tennis club, which opens up a lot of opportunities for Maguire, including forging new friendships and a relationship with cute tennis star, Jordy.

What I really liked about this novel was that it wasn’t a ‘love cures mental illness’ kind of story. Sure, Jordy plays a huge part in bringing Maguire out of her shell, but its through her own efforts and determination that she was able to overcome her anxiety. I liked how supportive Jordy was and how supportive all of Maguire’s new friends were, but she really made the effort and had the intention to get better. I loved the mental health aspects of the book and thought that it was nicely incorporated and well-researched. I did have a few problems with the therapy sessions because the way that Maguire’s therapist went about it goes against the most popular and effective method of treatment for anxiety, but Paula Stokes did acknowledge in the author’s note that she took some liberties with it. Overall, I thought anxiety was really well represented in this novel.

What I liked most about this book were the relationships between the characters. There were so many different relationships explored in this book and they were all wonderfully developed. I enjoyed her friendships with the girls from the tennis club and how they supported her through all of her therapy challenges and never judged her for her fears. I also really loved Maguire’s relationship with her mum and stepfather. It was really nice to see her open up to them and express how she was feeling. And I also really loved seeing them open up to her about their own fears and how the accident has affected them. And of course, I really loved Maguire’s relationship with Jordy. It felt very honest and realistic and I loved the way that she supported him during his struggles as well. Nothing feels better than reading about a relationship that goes both ways. I thought their romance developed at the perfect pace and while it did feel slightly insta-lovey at the beginning, there was a strong focus on the friendship between them that wasn’t eclipsed by the romance.

In terms of the characters, Maguire was a character who was extremely easy to like. I was rooting for her from the very beginning because she was so likeable. It was a little bit painful to read about her constantly second-guessing herself and everyone around her but that made it even sweeter when she was able to overcome her anxiety. Her character definitely developed a lot throughout the book and I appreciated how realistic her character growth was. There were definitely setbacks but her strength was definitely evident throughout the story. As for the side characters, there honestly wasn’t anyone who I didn’t like. They were all wonderful and unique from each other and I loved all of them.

This book was uplifting, funny, and adorable. If you’re looking for a pick-me-up or something that will bring you out of a reading slump, this one would be perfect!


12 thoughts on “Review: Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      Eep sorry it took me soooo long to reply to this! Hopefully you’ve managed to choose some great books in the last few weeks 🙂 I really really enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it. It had a really cute romance and story and I think it’ll be hard not to enjoy it. I also recently enjoyed My Lady Jane, which was so funny! And for more of a serious and emotional book, I recommend The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B, which is about OCD.

      Liked by 1 person

      • vrushali21 says:

        Thank you so much It’s okay that you took your time to reply. I’ll definitely try to read these whenever I get the opportunity. And I selected ‘All the bright places’ and ‘The night circus’ out of which I read the first one. It’s GREAT!


  1. Aila @ One Way Or An Author says:

    Yaas I’m so glad you liked this one! WASN’T IT THE CUTEST? Jordy was also *cue sigh*. Anyways, I like how Stokes went about exploring mental illness in a more light-hearted way, rather than those sad contemporaries that sounds so depressing (curse my weak heart). I thought that the therapy sessions were particularly adorable!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nick says:

    This was really adorable, wasn’t it. Uplifting is the perfect way to describe it. I was a teensy bit worried that it would maybe be to angsty, but Paula Stokes did such a great job. I loved the relationships the best too in this book. And like you said, it wasn’t her relationship with Jordy that helped her take the steps to be better.
    Wonderful review, Jenna!

    Liked by 1 person

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