My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Publicatio Date: May 17th, 2016
Point of View: 1st Person & Feminine
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Mental Illness, Contemporary, Romance, High School, Sports, Family
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.
‘‘Bad stuff happens around me.’’ I fold my hands in my lap. ‘‘You’re risking your life just by being in this room with me.’’
I have finally read a book by Paula Stokes.
Paula Stokes is a lovely discovery. Her writing is eloquent, her characters are relatable and her love-interests damn charming. I don’t even care if Jordy is slightly clichéd (hot, popular, chick-magnet guy), because she makes everyone in the book likeable.
The humor is never contrived and the atmosphere of the book is very light when we think about the fact that it deals with mental illness. I truthfully expected it to be darker, but Maguire is such a dynamic narrator that the sadness she often feels never really reaches a climax.
I often read mental illness-themed books with main characters that struggle to overcome their fears, obsessions, personality disorders, etc. by seeing therapists and creating themselves challenges to accomplish in order to ‘heal’.
But Girl Against the Universe manages to be original nonetheless. Maguire thinks she’s bad luck. She thinks bad things happen when she’s around and that it’s mostly because of her that half of her family died. Her therapist recommends she joins a sport – she picks tennis – to help her deal with everything.
Joining the tennis team is the best choice Maguire could have ever made. She makes new friends, learns new skills, cultivates Jordy’s love and simply mingles with the rest of the world. No more isolation – she’s out and she’s going to stay out until she overcomes her phobia.
It’s like a journal log of Maguire’s step by step process at getting healthier, mentally speaking. I liked that. I enjoyed how honest Maguire was with the reader and how her situation ‘made sense’. It’s not every day that we hear about people thinking that they are bad luck, yet Maguire makes us understand why she thinks that of herself. She’s very convincing.
However, I found two rather important weaknesses to the story, actually linked to one another: the length of the story and the series of events. For the first time ever, I read this book on my tablet without checking every thirty minutes what page I’m at. Four hours later, I decided to check, thinking that, surely, I must be at the end. Guess what. I wasn’t. I still had a hundred pages to go.
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy reading it or that it felt too slow, but the events went back and forth. There is, of course, character development regarding Maguire, but the actual series of events usually revolve around tennis and the therapy sessions. When she’s not throwing balls, Maguire’s at a tennis competition or paying a visit to her doctor. It’s not all that happens – otherwise I would have stopped reading it quite quickly – but it’s a lot of that.
I’m rather happy I gave this book a shot though. Otherwise, I would never have gotten acquainted with this author’s beautiful characters.