Personal Thoughts: I had been wanting to read Girl Against the Universe since it’s debut, largely due to the gorgeous cover. I’m not really a fan of the color orange but this beautifully illustrated tennis court just works for me. And I love that Maguire is strewn across the corner, looking like she’s given up on everyone and everything. I knew going into it that Maguire believes she’s bad luck, but I was never expecting to find a character that I personally relate to as much as I do to her. Maguire suffers from anxiety (with a slightly different thought process than mine manifests in) and “listening” in on her therapy sessions with Dr. Leed was an added bonus for my own personal mental health.
Plot Summary: In Girl Against the Universe, our main character Maguire believes she’s bad luck. She would rather just stay home and far away from other people because she doesn’t want anything bad to happen to them on her account. She is the survivor of several accidents which is where her fear stems from and after her most recent mishap, she moves with her mom, stepdad and step-siblings to a new town in California for a fresh start. Her mom pays for a preset amount of therapy sessions with Dr. Leed and it’s there that Maguire meets Jordy, another one of Dr. Leed’s patients with his own set of issues.
Critique: I can’t even pick a favorite thing about this book because I loved the entire thing so deeply so I’ll just start explaining why. Girl Against the Universe is not a girl with mental illness meets boy and then suddenly everything is better story. Maguire and Jordy are each dealing with their own set of very unique issues and the book shows the two of them working through things on their own and with each other. Maguire never lets Jordy push her into anything she’s not ready for. With Dr. Leed’s help, she comes up with a list of challenges to try to push herself into being more social and experiencing the world instead of sitting home while life happens around her. As it turns out, Jordy is something of a niche celebrity. He’s by no means super famous but he’s well known enough that he’s used to girls using him for his notoriety and access to fancy parties. His parents have a one track mind when it comes to his future and until now, Jordy has been on board even though it’s not necessarily what he really wants out of life. The friendship that he and Maguire form is incredibly adorable and I like that they’re able to find strength within themselves as a result of their relationship. Also notable are the amazing and unlikely friends Maguire makes along the way. They’re supportive and helpful and I just want to give them a big hug. I also loved the family aspect of the story. Maguire has a complicated relationship with her stepfather and she hasn’t told her mother all the details of her mental illness. As the story progresses, there are some pretty heartwarming family moments and your heart is sure to melt.
Do I Recommend?: Yes! Girl Against the Universe is a new favorite for me, particularly for the relatability factor when it comes to anxiety. This book means so much to me. To see something that I’ve experienced portrayed so accurately and without any negative connotations, is more than I ever could’ve wished for. I’m so happy there is a substantial backlist of Paula Stokes books that I have to look forward to reading!